Tag Archives: Sen. Jeff Flake

Election Day Recounts and Lawsuits

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 9, 2018 — Political overtime action is occurring in three states as very close elections for US Senate and governor still appear to be a long way from concluding.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has dwindled to just over 15,000 votes as more and more mail ballots are counted. Now further controversy has arisen in Broward County, which is reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election that required 32 days and a US Supreme Court ruling to decide.

In this current instance, people are calling into question why there were 24,000-plus fewer votes cast in the US Senate race, which led the Florida ticket, than the other contests on the Broward County ballot. Democrats are suggesting the ballot design that placed the office on the lower left side is the a primary reason for the large drop-off and argue that the counting machines are not detecting marks made on individual ballots. Broward County election officials say they can only count what the machine reads.

Gov. Scott held a news availability last night to accuse the Democrats of attempting to “steal the election.” He is suing elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach County over their failure to meet certain legal deadlines in ballot counting and reporting and, in his capacity as governor, is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the situation.

The vote count change is also affecting the governor and commissioner of agriculture elections as well as the US Senate contest. All three have dropped within the half-percentage point margin that automatically triggers a recount. It is likely that all three contests will be recounted once a final vote is determined. Therefore, we can expect weeks of legal and administrative wrangling before these highly important elections are decided.

In Arizona, similar controversy is arising. With more than 450,000 ballots remaining to count in the US Senate race, local Republican county officers from Maricopa, Apache, Navajo, and Yuma counties are suing election officials in Maricopa, Pima, and Coconino counties over their process of “curing” absentee or mail ballots where the envelope signature appears different than what is on file. In such an instance, the election officials attempt to contact the individual to verify that he or she did cast the ballot.

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McSally Surges in New Arizona Poll

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Oct. 12, 2018 — A new OH Predictive Insights survey for ABC News 15 in Phoenix (Oct. 1-2; 600 likely Arizona voters) brings new information about the open Arizona Senate race. According to the ballot test results, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has overcome Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Phoenix) consistent small lead in the battle to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and claims a six-point advantage, 47-41 percent.

Though this is the first time that Rep. McSally has scored a lead beyond the polling margin of error, the new result is plausible.

For several weeks, surveys have projected that Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is expanding his small advantage over Arizona State University professor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Garcia into a double-digit lead, but the same polls continued to forecast Rep. Sinema with a tight edge in the Senate race. It seemed only a matter of time before the act of Ducey cementing his margin would begin to help McSally.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)

Secondly, McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first woman to fly a combat mission and command a flight squadron, has been hitting Sinema over her role as a war protester prior to the latter woman being elected to the state legislature. The contrast is a compelling one and should play to McSally’s favor. Arizona may be more politically competitive that in past years, but Republicans still maintain a statewide advantage here. Additionally, the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain brings greater attention to those engaged in military careers, thus further helping McSally.

An outside conservative organization then began attacking Sinema over legislation she drafted while in the legislature that made it more difficult to charge individuals in child prostitution cases. Sinema’s argument was that men should not be held totally responsible for engaging in such a crime if the prostitute in question is made to look much older than her true age. This attack appears relatively weak and may miss the mark, but it adds to the multi-pronged strategy to cast Rep. Sinema in a negative light.

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Arizona Senate: Filing Closes,
New Poll Shows Surprise

Arizona-mapBy Jim Ellis

June 1, 2018 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona Wednesday for the state’s Aug. 28 primary election, and the US Senate candidate fields are now set. Little in the way of surprise — barring last minute filers who have not yet been reported, the Republicans, who are attempting to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R), number three in total: US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and ex-state senator and former US Senate candidate Kelli Ward. For the Democrat primary, US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) faces attorney Deedra Abboud, a minor candidate.

Remington Research just released the results of their latest Grand Canyon State GOP primary survey conducted last week (May 23-24; 2,011 likely Arizona Republican primary voters via an interactive voice response system). According to the data, Rep. McSally attracts 42 percent support as compared to ex-Sheriff Arpaio’s 25 percent, while Ward tallies 23 percent. In two other polls conducted in April, Rep. McSally led in one and Ward the other.

While the McSally advantage is 17 and 19 points over Arpaio and Ward in the most current survey, she led the former sheriff and the ex-state legislator, 36-26-25 percent in a mid-April Magellan Strategies poll. OH Predictive Insights, however, found Ward jumping out to a 36-27-22 percent advantage over Rep. McSally and Arpaio in their early April study.

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New Arizona Senate Data

By Jim Ellis

Sen. John McCain (R) -- Negative approval rating and pressure to retire

Sen. John McCain (R) — Negative approval rating and pressure to retire

April 19, 2018 — Magellan Strategies independently surveyed the Arizona Republican electorate (April 11-12 and 15; 755 likely Arizona Republican primary voters) to test the state’s upcoming Senate race, along with Sen. John McCain’s (R) status and that of other key elected GOP leaders.

According to Magellan’s results, US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) outpaces former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and ex-state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward, 36-26-25 percent, an improvement for the congresswoman when compared to previously published polls.

In January, Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights released their poll that found McSally leading 31-22-19 percent over Arpaio and Ward, while another Arizona-based survey research firm, Data Orbital, found a much tighter three-way split, 31-29-25, again with McSally topping Arpaio and Ward, consecutively.

Much speculation still surrounds Arpaio’s candidacy. Some believe that he will drop his Senate campaign prior to the state’s May 30 candidate filing deadline, instead using the race as basically a vehicle to raise money to cover legal fees from battling charges filed against him during the past two years. President Trump pardoned Arpaio after he was found guilty of criminal contempt in relation to refusing to follow a judge’s immigration order while in his position as sheriff.

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Arizona Senate Activity;
North Carolina Map … Again

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2018 — Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a political move regarding the open Senate race on Tuesday, just as Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) was scheduling a series of statewide “events” for Friday.

The controversial ex-sheriff, who President Trump pardoned earlier in the year just before his sentencing for a contempt of court conviction, announced his candidacy for Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) open seat. Many, however, including Sen. Flake himself, do not believe that Arpaio will follow through with his candidacy. The former sheriff, who was defeated for re-election in 2016, has frequently said he was going to launch a statewide campaign but ultimately backed away from doing so. As an aside, should Arpaio be elected at 85 years of age, he would become the oldest freshman senator in American history.

Rep. McSally’s Friday appearances are reported to be a Senate announcement tour. Since Sen. Flake announced his retirement, it has been expected that McSally would become a Senate candidate.

Ironically, should Arpaio run, the big beneficiary might actually be McSally. With ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward in position to attract the more conservative Arizona primary voter, Sheriff Arpaio’s presence, complete with his virtually universal name identification and well-known border protection positions, would clearly split the former legislator’s political base. In a state with no secondary run-off election system, this would likely allow McSally the opportunity of winning the nomination without having to secure a majority vote.

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New Year Senate Preview – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 4, 2018 — Now that we are officially in election year 2018, it is a good time to set the stage for the coming campaign season. With Democrat Doug Jones converting the Alabama special election last month, and new Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) standing for a concurrent special election this November, a different picture exists for the coming Senate election campaigns.

THE REPUBLICANS

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Before Alabama, it was a virtual mathematical certainty that the Republicans would retain Senate control after the 2018 vote because the Democrats had too few viable conversion targets. The Jones’ special election victory to permanently replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate in order to accept his Trump Administration position, now gives the Democrats a path to attaining the majority but they still must overcome the GOP’s strong defensive wall.

Only forced to defend eight of the now 34 in-cycle seats, the Republicans are most at risk in Nevada and Arizona.

In the Silver State, first-term Sen. Dean Heller (R) currently defends his statewide position against two known opponents, only one of which is a Democrat.

Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, who has lost campaigns for five different offices (state Senate, Secretary of State, US Senate, Congressional District 4, and Congressional District 3), is nevertheless 4-1 in Republican primaries. Therefore, Sen. Heller’s first task is to secure the GOP nomination in June. Already we have seen erratic polling, with the Tarkanian camp and some national pollsters posting him ahead of Heller, but the senator and other independent research firms countering with the opposite result.

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Two Polls; One Interesting, One Bad

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 1, 2017
— Two political polls were released into the public domain yesterday. The first survey is of interest because it already examines a budding open seat Arizona Senate Republican primary, and becomes the first gauge of how former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who had been challenging Sen. Jeff Flake (R), performs in a new situation.

Another in a series of Virginia gubernatorial polls was also published Monday as we begin the last week of the election contest. Here, we question the results’ accuracy.

Arizona Senate

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

Speculation has been hot and heavy during the past few days, the first time interval since Sen. Flake announced he would not seek a second term largely because of dismal re-election prospects. Culminating the early conjecture are Phoenix-based Data Orbital’s (DO) new conclusions (Oct. 26-28; 500 likely Arizona GOP primary voters) finding former state Sen. Ward leading a pack of potential Senate candidates, but with a margin that suggests the impending Republican primary is anybody’s game.

Looking at the DO results, Ward places first with 26 percent, followed by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) at 19 percent, and former Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) coming next at 10 percent, while ex-Rep. John Shadegg (R-Scottsdale), Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale), and Arizona University Regent Jay Heiler score 6, 5, and 1 percent, respectively.

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Fast Action in Arizona

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Oct. 30, 2017 — Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) announcement Wednesday that he will not run for re-election has ignited a flurry of political activity in Arizona about who now might enter the newly open 2018 Senate race. Decisions are already being made, with many quickly saying they won’t run for the seat.

A great deal of attention surrounds 2nd District US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) for obvious reasons, because she is likely the best Republican candidate on paper, but the congresswoman has yet to make a public statement about running for the Senate. Published reports, however, quote sources close to her as saying she is being “inundated” with supporters urging that she run.

Winning her first congressional election in 2014, a 161-vote victory over then-Rep. Ron Barber (D-Tucson) that proved to be the closest congressional result in the country that year, and then racking up 57 percent support over former state Rep. Matt Heinz (D) last year even though Hillary Clinton was scoring a five-percentage point win in her southeastern Arizona congressional district makes Rep. McSally a proven political commodity. As a freshman House member, she raised an eye-popping $7.7 million for her first re-election effort. This year, ranking high on Democratic target lists and drawing eight announced opponents including former US Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) who moved to Tucson right after losing to Sen. John McCain (R) in the 2016 election, Rep. McSally already has accumulated over $1.45 million for her next campaign.

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The New Arizona Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 26, 2017 — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) surprised most in the political world during a speech a couple days ago from the Senate floor, and thereby to the nation, that he will not seek re-election for a second term.

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

Former Arizona state senator and GOP Senate challenger Kelli Ward

With the text of his retirement address devoted mostly to his long-enduring battle with President Trump, Sen. Flake admits to having “regrets” about leaving elected politics and over the nation’s current state of affairs. But, the more salient reason hastening his departure is likely the polling data that shows his standing among Republicans is worse than the Arizona electorate as a whole, and that he would likely lose to both GOP challenger Kelli Ward, a former state senator who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent victory in the 2016 Republican primary, and US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in the general election.

Contrary to media and Democratic Party analyses, the Republicans’ chances of holding this Senate seat actually improve with Sen. Flake’s departure. It was clear that his presidential sparring with Trump had left him worse for wear, and the GOP will likely be able to nominate a less encumbered, and thereby stronger, general election candidate.

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The Emerging Senate Cycle

By Jim Ellis

Tennessee state flag

Tennessee state flag

Oct. 25, 2017 — Though we still have more than two full months remaining in calendar year 2017, the 2018 US Senate field is beginning to take clear shape. With 34 statewide contests to be decided, including the Alabama special election that will conclude Dec. 12, no fewer than 10 campaigns are basically set. Action is occurring in an additional 13 states suggesting that some sort of primary or general election competition will soon come to the forefront. Eleven incumbents seeking re-election are rated as “safe” at the present time.

Former Tennessee US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced Monday that he would join the open US Senate Republican primary battle, attempting to succeed retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R). This race already appears to be evolving into a possible two-way primary between ex-Rep. Fincher and current 7th District veteran incumbent Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood).

Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity, remains in the race after launching what is now a moot primary challenge to Sen. Corker but it is unclear how strong he will be now that several conservative organizations are already beginning to coalesce behind Rep. Blackburn.

The only other bit of Volunteer State intrigue centers around Democratic former Gov. Phil Bredesen and whether he will enter the statewide contest. Originally, Bredesen took himself out of consideration, but now agrees to consider becoming a candidate. He says a decision will be forthcoming in a matter of weeks. Without Bredesen, the Democrats would likely concede the seat to the eventual Republican nominee since other strong potential candidates, specifically US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, have already said they will not run.

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Could Bannon Cost the GOP?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13 2017 — Several articles have surfaced this week speculating that former presidential advisor Steve Bannon wanting to find and support challengers to Republican Senate incumbents could cost the GOP its majority. It appears individuals making such a claim have forgotten how to count.

Keeping in mind that the Democrats must protect 25 of 33 in-cycle Senate seats, there are simply not enough legitimate targets available for the minority to change their status within the chamber, even though they need a net gain of only three seats. Yes, the Dems are forcing Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) into toss-up situations, but the remaining six GOP incumbents are some of the safest in the Senate. So, even if Bannon or other conservative insurgents recruit opposition to incumbents, the chances of the eventual Republican nominee losing the general election in these particular states are extremely low.

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Bannon: How Much a Factor?

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Steve Bannon (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 5, 2017 — Several articles have appeared in the past few days contemplating former presidential advisor Steve Bannon’s perceived political strength, most specifically regarding his actions involving recruiting Republican primary challengers against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) loyalists.

While Bannon appears in good stead vis-à-vis financial backers — with the billionaire Mercer family serving as his monetary base — those running the McConnell-aligned outside political operation downplay just how strong the insurgents might be opposite 2018 Senate GOP incumbents standing for re-election.

Valid points resonate with both sides. Buoyed by Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory over appointed Sen. Luther Strange in last week’s special Republican run-off election, the Bannon forces, who heaped attack ads on the interim incumbent, were naturally taking a great deal of credit for the victory. And, without doubt, anyone thinking of challenging a sitting senator is greatly encouraged after seeing the Alabama outcome.

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Arizona Rep. Sinema Makes Her Move

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 3, 2017 — It has been apparent for some time that three-term Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is preparing for a statewide race, and on Friday she officially made her intentions known. Rep. Sinema announced that she will run for Senate, challenging first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R) or whomever the Republican nominee might be.

Former state senator and US Senate candidate Kelli Ward is Sen. Flake’s current Republican opponent and she leads him in the latest polls, but others could still enter if they continue to see Flake in a prone political position and Ward not perceived as a top-tier candidate. The Arizona partisan primary cycle is a long one. The vote is scheduled for Aug. 28, 2018, and with the filing deadline not until May 30 plenty of time remains for the final candidate field to gel.

It became obvious that Sinema was looking at either the Senate or governor’s race at the beginning of the year when her fundraising increased precipitously even though her Phoenix congressional district is now politically safe. Having more than $3 million in her campaign account by June 30 (the same amount as Sen. Flake, incidentally) became the strongest clue that she would run statewide despite her “announcement” during a Phoenix radio interview that she would seek re-election to the House.

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The Primary Fallout

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 29, 2017 — Former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s victory in Tuesday’s special Senate run-off election has created a media narrative suggesting that statewide GOP primary challenges will soon be sweeping the political scene, but such simply won’t happen.

While Judge Moore’s win may give legs to one adjacent budding Senate primary challenge, the number isn’t going expand due to the 2018 electoral set-up. That is, few Republicans, eight to be exact, are in-cycle for the coming election and the two most vulnerable situations already feature incumbents engaged with primary opponents.

Additionally, the Moore-Sen. Luther Strange contest had unique characteristics that made a primary victory over this particular incumbent more likely, if not probable. Strange, then Alabama’s attorney general, receiving the vacancy appointment in “swamp-like” fashion from a governor trying to avoid impeachment, and using the Senate appointment process to game the system so that he could later choose the person who would continue the legal investigation of himself, cast Strange in a negative light from his very first day in Washington.

Furthermore, the new senator attracted only 32 percent in his first election, meaning that two-thirds of his own party’s Aug. 15 primary voters turned away from him at their first opportunity, was a clear signal that Strange’s appointment was met with widespread dissatisfaction and that the former AG wouldn’t last long in his new job.

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Arizona Shock Poll: Down 27

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2017 — GBA Strategies, polling for the Democratic leadership’s Senate Majority PAC (Aug. 30-Sept. 7; 600 likely Arizona general election voters and 500 Arizona Republican primary voters), just produced stunningly poor numbers for first-term Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) from their new Grand Canyon State survey.

What makes matters even worse for the senator is that the 27-point deficit referenced in the title is from the Republican primary voter sample segment. The GBA ballot test finds former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent re-nomination victory in 2016, leading Flake by an incredible 58-31 percent margin. While other polls have found Flake in difficult political shape within his own Republican Party base, almost exclusively attributable to his national public feud with President Trump, none have detected anything close to this spread.

On the other hand, GBA is a Democratic pollster and not known for testing a Republican primary sample. Therefore, doubt exists regarding this survey’s reliability because the pollsters may not have the necessary experience to understand the nuances within this particular voter segment. But, the margin is so large that few if any findings exist to conclude anything other than Flake is today likely trailing badly in the fledgling Republican primary contest.

The other results don’t give the Flake team much reason for optimism, either. Among Republicans, his personal favorability is a poor 25:56 percent while his job approval ratio is a slightly better, but still an abysmal 34:58 percent positive to negative. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is in even worse shape within the party base. Only 17 percent rate Sen. McConnell in a favorable light, with 42 percent of Republicans expressing disapproval of the national party leader. But, that is of little solace to Sen. Flake since McConnell doesn’t face the Arizona electorate.

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