Tag Archives: Tennessee

A Not So Open Seat

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 22, 2017 — Currently, we see a low number of open US House seats during this 2018 election cycle, and the number is about to get even smaller. Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) is expected to announce that he has changed political course once again and now will seek re-election.

In April, the six-term congressman announced his candidacy for governor, only to withdraw two months later. At the time when ending his statewide bid, Perlmutter confirmed that he would not be seeking re-election to a seventh term in the House. Believing the 7th District, a likely Democratic seat, would be open in 2018, three state legislators and a former US Ambassador jumped into the party primary.

At the very least, each of the three legislators has previously indicated that they would end their congressional campaigns and defer to the returning incumbent should he decide to return. Therefore, it is likely Perlmutter’s re-entry into the congressional race will not spur a competitive primary campaign.

Assuming this predicted new course of action proves true, the number of open regular cycle House seats will temporarily drop to 20. At this point in time, the total open seat universe is half of what it was in the last two election cycles, and less than one-third the high water number of 64 we saw in 2012.

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Another Tennessee Open

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 4, 2017 — For the second time this week, a Volunteer State Republican seat came open for the succeeding election. Following Rep. Jimmy Duncan’s (R-Knoxville) retirement announcement in the state’s 2nd District, House Budget Committee chair Diane Black (R-Gallatin) declared her candidacy for governor, thus opening her 6th District for the 2018 campaign.

In an announcement video (see above) that left no doubt she will be campaigning as a strong conservative, Rep. Black attempted to neutralize what may be her most glaring negative … that she is a member of the US House. In her one minute, 46-second video announcement, the congresswoman emphasizes the work she’s done for Tennessee and makes clear that she will use intense rhetoric to convey her positions, such as opposing “the weak-kneed people in her own party.” Professing to be like most Tennesseans, Rep. Black says she is among the majority who “do things the right way, no matter what Hollywood or Washington thinks about it.”

Rep. Black joins an open Republican governor’s field that includes state House Speaker Beth Harwell, state Sen. Mae Beavers, former state Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, business owners Bill Lee and Kay White, and entertainer Mark “Coonrippy” Brown. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, so far, comprise the Democratic contingent. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

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Ohio Poll; Tennessee Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2017
— We now have our first major political poll for the important open Ohio governor’s race, a contest that features several current and former prominent office holders from both parties.

The Tarrance Group surveyed the Ohio Republican electorate (July 24-26; 800 likely Ohio GOP voters) for the American Freedom Builders conservative organization, testing next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary that includes three sitting statewide elected officials and a member of Congress.

According to the Tarrance results, attorney general and former US Sen. Mike DeWine leads the field both in support (42 percent) and name identification (96 percent). He enjoys a wide margin over Secretary of State Jon Husted who polls 18 percent, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (11 percent), with US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) now taking just five percent.

Name familiarity at this point has a great deal to do with ballot test standing. Husted’s name is recognized by 67 percent of the respondents, and Lt. Gov. Taylor just 44 percent, while Rep. Renacci is unknown to 71 percent of the statewide voters.

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Flake Opposition Mounting

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

By Jim Ellis

July 5, 2017 — With the Republican healthcare overhaul bill remaining in a controversial state, and Democrats already trying to use it as a rallying point for potential 2018 candidates, the Arizona Senate field is beginning to form. Currently, three potential challenger candidates continue to weigh their options on the political sidelines.

Because Democrats have so few targets in the present election cycle – Republicans must only protect eight of the 33 states holding Senate elections, and six of those are in arguably their strongest political domains: Mississippi (Wicker), Nebraska (Fischer), Tennessee (Corker), Texas (Cruz), Utah (Hatch), and Wyoming (Barrasso) – they have no choice but to go hard after the two GOP incumbents entwined in more marginal political situations: Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).

Though Arizona voters routinely elect many more Republicans than Democrats, despite many campaigns ending in relatively close fashion, the Dems are forced to make a major play against Sen. Flake because they simply have no other secondary place with as much 2018 competitive potential. On defense in 25 states, Senate Democrats will not win the majority because a net gain of two, including defeating Sen. Flake, would yield only a 50-50 tie. Such a division would allow Vice President Mike Pence to ensure that the GOP majority continues in his role as the body’s tiebreaker.

Last week, both Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) and state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson), the latter man coming to notoriety as the doctor who saved Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-Tucson) life when an insane gunman tragically shot her, brought forth public attacks on the current healthcare legislation and began sounding like candidates.

Mayor Stanton and Dr. Friese confirm they are considering entering the Senate race, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one or both men could announce their candidacy on the heels of the Senate healthcare vote, particularly if Sen. Flake supports the legislation. Both would be credible candidates and it is unclear at this writing if one would step aside in favor of the other.

Another individual hovering in the background of this Grand Canyon State political picture is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). She has been on a fundraising tear, and though already announcing her intention to seek a fourth term in the House, Sinema does admit to be considering a Senate bid if the circumstances are favorable. By that, she means Sen. Flake drawing a strong Republican primary challenger. It is also unclear if Rep. Sinema will risk her now safe Maricopa County House seat to join what could be a crowded Democratic primary against potentially top-tier candidates even if she perceives Flake to be politically weak.

As we will remember from the last campaign cycle, Sen. Flake became embroiled in a public feud with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and relations between the two men remain less than cordial. After the election, Flake’s internal Republican polling standing suffered greatly as a result, thus making him potentially vulnerable in next year’s Republican primary. Already, former state Sen. Kelli Ward is an announced GOP challenger, but she is not typically regarded as a heavyweight candidate even though she held Sen. John McCain to a 51-40 percent re-nomination percentage in the 2016 Republican primary.

At the end of last year, state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R) was polling strongly against Flake, actually leading him in some internal polls, but has yet to come forward to announce a Senate challenge. He has said he will not seek re-election to his current position, however.

The Arizona race will clearly be an interesting one. Republicans still maintain a 1.259 million to 1.102 million voter registration edge over Democrats with 1.235 million categorized as Independents. Though the party registration figures are at virtual parity, the GOP electoral resume is strong.

The only Democrat to win a US Senate seat here since 1962 is Dennis DeConcini, who served three terms before retiring in the 1994 election cycle. The Dems have fared better in governors’ races during that same 55-year time span, electing six of the 13 state chief executives who have occupied the office. Currently, the US House delegation stands at 5R-4D, while the GOP controls both houses of the state legislature.

Senate ’18 Updates – Part III

By Jim Ellis

March 21, 2017 — Today, we continue to examine the latest happenings for the coming 2018 Senate campaigns.

• New Mexico:
The open governor’s race is attracting most of the early political attention in the Land of Enchantment. Once the field to replace term-limited Gov. Susana Martinez (R) solidifies itself, it’s possible we could see more interest develop for opposing first-term Sen. Martin Heinrich (D). Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), and Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry are all potential Republican gubernatorial candidates. So far, only State Labor Commissioner Mick Rich (R) is an announced US Senate candidate.

• New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is preparing for re-election to a second six-year term in 2018. Presidential overtones will affect this race, as the senator is being mentioned as a possible national Democratic candidate. Little in the way of Republican Senate opposition is forming against her right now.

• North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) attracted a great deal of media attention when President Trump first interviewed her for Agriculture Secretary during the post-election transition period. A 50-49 percent winner in 2012, Heitkamp defeated one-term at-large US Rep. Rick Berg (R), and now she prepares for a second term possibly against another at-large congressman. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) says he will decide whether to run for the Senate “in the next few months.” Obviously, a Heitkamp-Cramer race would be a hard fought contest, but it is far from certain that the congressman will make the challenge. This is clearly a race to watch, and a top Republican conversion target, especially if Rep. Cramer decides to run.

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Senate Plans

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2017
— Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two of the Senate’s most elderly members, were at the top of the potential retirement list in 2018. But, as we mentioned in our updates during the preceding 10 days, both are now sending re-election signals.

Below is a re-cap of the 21 senators who have made public comments about their 2018 campaign status (a total of 33 are in-cycle):

California: Sen. Feinstein stated during a radio interview within the past few days that she is “leaning” toward seeking re-election, feeling that her age during the next campaign (85) will not be a particular detriment either to her political ability or in representing her constituents. She stopped short, however, of making a formal campaign announcement.

Delaware: Sen. Tom Carper (D) said in early December that he has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term in 2018. The senator has been in elective office for 40 consecutive years, and will be 72 at the time of the next election.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was also thought to be a retirement possibility, considering that he will be 76 years of age in 2018, and will complete 30 years of congressional service in that same year. Repeatedly, however, Sen. Nelson has said that he will seek a fourth term next year.

Indiana: In what promises to be a hotly contested campaign, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) announced his re-election intention in January, and is beginning to hire political staff.

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Tennessee Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 8, 2016 — Volunteer State voters went to the polls in their unique Thursday primary last week to choose congressional and state office nominees. The evening featured two of the most watched congressional races in the state, the GOP primary challenge to three-term Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg) and the crowded open 8th District from which three-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump/Jackson) is retiring.

Former Mitt Romney campaign official and attorney Grant Starrett challenged Rep. DesJarlais, who had been plagued for two cycles with the past scandal of engaging in extra-marital affairs with several of his female medical practice patients. Yet, he managed to survive in close contests. Two years ago, the congressman nipped former state Sen. Jim Tracy (R) by a mere 38 votes in winning with less than a majority in a multi-candidate field.

On Thursday, DesJarlais’ percentage was much better, defending himself against Starrett’s attacks from the ideological right and winning 52-43 percent, from a vote pool of just under 47,000 cast ballots. Though Starrett talked a great deal about ethics in his ads and public appearances, he did not reference DesJarlais’ affairs. Starrett had a significant resource advantage, possibly outspending the incumbent by 75 percent or more. We will see the final expenditure totals when the candidates soon file their post-election financial disclosure reports. Starrett will have likely spent in the $1.5 million range. Rep. DesJarlais now looks to be a sure re-election bet in the fall.

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Tennessee Primary: Another Upset?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2016 — The country’s only Thursday primary took place yesterday in the Volunteer State of Tennessee. No US Senate race was on the ballot there this year, but competition existed within the House delegation.

The state featured one open seat, the 8th District of retiring three-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump/Jackson), and a total of six primaries in the state’s nine CDs.

The 4th District challenge to Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg/ Murfreesboro) was very serious. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) again drew competition from the legendary political Ford family, but the contest is not attracting much in the way of attention or challenger financial support. Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) drew a former state representative and statewide candidate, but he, too, was not expected to be a major threat.

The remaining challenges, those to Reps. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-Chattanooga), were minor. Regarding the latter member, this was the first time since his original election in 2010 that Fleischmann had an easy Republican primary run.

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Crowning Too Early?

By Jim Ellis

May 2, 2016 — Are the pundits who are already making Donald Trump the Republican nominee, and those House members rushing to endorse him, and the others like former House Speaker John Boehner and Rep. Peter King (R-NY-2) calling out Sen. Ted Cruz acting too quickly?

It was only two weeks ago when Trump was reeling and people were speculating that he would lose a contested convention to Cruz as early as the second ballot because he had allowed the Texan to out-maneuver him in the delegate selection process. In Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Dakota, Colorado, and other places, pro-Cruz individuals were being elected as convention delegates. Though most would be legally bound to cast a first ballot for Trump, if a deadlocked convention went more than one ballot these delegates could break away and cause the New York real estate mogul to fall.

Then came New York and the eastern regional primary. Though Trump exceeded expectations and delegate quotas, was it really a surprise that he carried the states in his home region? The after-effect has reinvigorated the Trump campaign and helped send Cruz to the ropes.

The results shouldn’t surprise anyone. Trump was always projected to carry the eastern states, and certainly so when Cruz insulted the whole state of New York with his “New York values” comment in an early debate.

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Are Both Sides Rigged?

By Jim Ellis

April 14, 2016
— Earlier in the week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump charged that some GOP officials were “rigging” the nomination process against him. Now that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is beginning to reap the benefits of his campaign laying the groundwork in key places during the past several months, particularly in unbound delegation states such as Colorado and North Dakota, Trump is finding himself on the short end of the delegate selection process.

Because Colorado did not have a primary or caucus but went only to a state convention, Trump is saying such a move is out of bounds. The North Dakota Republicans did the exact same thing a week earlier, but he didn’t levy the same charges toward the Peace Garden State GOP leaders.

Simultaneously, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s campaign spokesman claimed that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) is trying to “rig” the Democratic system by attempting to convince Super Delegates who have already announced for Clinton to change their minds.

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Trump’s Achilles Heel

By Jim Ellis

April 13, 2016 — Donald Trump’s flap over the Colorado delegation’s action this past Saturday reveals his campaign’s biggest weakness. While he has performed better than any other Republican candidate in attracting votes in the primary/caucus process to date, the Trump organization has paid scant attention to delegate selection mechanics in the various states. Now, the omission is beginning to cost him.

Trump is crying foul because the Colorado Republican Party met in convention instead of scheduling a primary or caucus, but theirs was not a random, or unheard of act. In fact, North Dakota used the same procedure the previous weekend without raising the Trump campaign’s ire.

“Though [Trump] has placed first more often than any other Republican candidate in primaries and a few caucuses, he has still garnered support from just 37 percent of voters casting ballots in a primary or caucus, far from obtaining majority status.”

Colorado Republicans have always employed a nominating convention. Prior to the 1980s, the only ballot access a candidate for any partisan office had was to obtain at least 20 percent of the convention vote. For the past 25-plus years, however, candidates can opt to bypass the convention and directly qualify exclusively through the signature petition process.

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Sanders & Cruz Win Again;
Tennessee Filings

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2016 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) won his seventh consecutive Democratic nomination event as he scored a Saturday afternoon 56-44 percent Wyoming Caucus victory over Hillary Clinton. Though he realistically cannot close the delegate gap, mostly because of Clinton’s overwhelming strength among the party’s free agent Super Delegates, Sanders has still managed to win the popular vote in 17 states and territories as compared his opponent’s 20.

Wyoming has only 18 Democratic delegates, and while Sanders decisively won more state delegates in their caucus system, Clinton is coming away with more national convention delegate votes thanks to the aforementioned Super Delegates.

Once the regular and Super Delegate votes are tabulated, Clinton looks to have scored a positive 11-7 margin, despite the state delegate tally cutting against her.

According to The New York Times, the updated unofficial national count finds Clinton with an overall 1,756 to 1,068 advantage. This means the former Secretary of State is 627 votes shy of obtaining the 2,383 delegates required to claim the nomination with 20 states and territories yet to vote. Therefore, she needs less than one-third of the remaining delegates to win.

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Following Up on the
Big Wisconsin Wins

By Jim Ellis

April 7, 2016 — Both senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) handily exceeded expectations in Wisconsin Tuesday night. Cruz, in particular, had an impressive night, hovering around the 50 percent mark throughout the counting and finished just a point under the majority threshold. Donald Trump notched only 34 percent, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) came up way short with just 14 percent.

Wisconsin is a Winner-Take-All by congressional district state, and it is in the all-important delegate count where Cruz came close to running the table. Except for the two western state congressional districts, 3 (Rep. Ron Kind; D-La Crosse) and 7 (Rep. Sean Duffy; R-Wausau), the Texas lawmaker swept the state including the Madison-anchored 2nd District where Kasich appeared to be favored going into the election. Therefore, Sen. Cruz scored a 36-6 delegate apportionment victory over Trump, with Kasich being shut out.

The result should be seen as a significant setback for Trump, just as it is becoming clear that he will face a serious degradation in delegate support if the convention deadlocks and multiple ballots are required.

Reports emanating from states such as Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Dakota and Arizona suggest that the delegate composition from these places, once the members are released according to their individual state law or party rule, will back away from Trump and head toward Cruz or possibly another candidate if others can be introduced into the process at the convention.

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Understanding State
Delegate Nuances

By Jim Ellis

April 5, 2016 — This past Sunday, the Drudge Report led with a story from a St. Louis political blogger who claimed Sen. Ted Cruz will be eliminated from obtaining a first ballot victory on April 26 even if he wins the Wisconsin primary today as all public polls indicate (The Gateway Pundit). The story’s premise is incorrect.

Joe Hoft, writing for the Gateway Pundit political blog, errs because he misunderstands the Republican National Committee delegate apportionment formulas. Therefore, to set the record straight, although Cruz is on political life support for a first ballot nomination, he likely won’t be mathematically eliminated this month.

Hoft misstates several points regarding exactly how the delegates are apportioned, particularly in the remaining Winner-Take-All by congressional district states. To capture all delegates in the seven states that use this system, one would have to place first in the statewide vote, and then carry every congressional district. Donald Trump accomplished this feat in South Carolina, but it appears unlikely Cruz will do so in Wisconsin today. Plus, Hoft’s projection (see chart in the linked article) that Trump would win two delegates from the Badger State is impossible because winning a CD awards the candidate three delegates. And, since even the three RNC delegates here are bound to the statewide winner, the remaining votes are assigned in groups of three after the 15 at-large delegates go to the statewide first-place finisher.

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Trump and Clinton Deliver,
But No Knockout Punch Quite Yet

March 2, 2016 — Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump delivered strong performances last night in their respective Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, but neither could land the knockout punch for which they hoped.

Clinton continued her dominance in the south, but surprisingly stumbled in Oklahoma. She won seven of the 11 Democratic voting entities last night.

Trump also took seven of the 11 Republican voting states; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) placed first in three, his home state of Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska; while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was victorious in the Minnesota Caucus. Despite placing first in seven voting entities, Trump broke the 40 percent threshold in only two places: Massachusetts and Alabama.

Though Trump has a healthy early lead, he is far from securing the 1,237 delegate votes required to clinch the party nomination. This suggests that the possibility of forcing a contested, or brokered, remains tangible.

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