Tag Archives: Texas

Looking at the House

By Jim Ellis

June 27, 2017 — For a brief instant, until Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) resigns later this week, the House has a full compliment of 435 members, which means now is a good time to survey 2018 election cycle prospects.

There has been a great deal of speculation, particularly before the GA-6 special election that Democrats had hoped to win, that Republicans are in danger of losing their majority in the coming regular election. But, what do the numbers actually say?

In looking at the overall picture much depends upon realistic chances that congressional district maps in Pennsylvania and Texas could be changed via redistricting court rulings before the next election. Should this happen in the two states, certain districts currently rated safe or likely to go to one party or the other could be significantly altered. Therefore, this pair of domains with large Republican majorities (Pennsylvania: 13R-5D; Texas: 25R-11D) could become 2018 electoral wild cards.

Since the post-reapportionment maps were finalized after the 2010 census, three states: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia, have been re-drawn. The three new maps combined resulted in Democrats gaining a net of two seats, an increase far below what was projected. Potential exists for further re-drawing in Wisconsin and again in North Carolina, but the US Supreme Court agreeing to hear the former state’s political gerrymandering lawsuit now makes the timing for any court-directed map changes in the two places more difficult to implement for the coming election.

Continue reading

Chaffetz to Retire; Cruz Down

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2017 — Five-term Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) announced Wednesday that he will surprisingly retire from the House at the end of the current term. Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, says he wants to return to the private sector and devote the rest of this time in Congress to completing his open investigations. The congressman said he may well run for public office again, but not in 2018. When asked about him entering the impending open 2020 gubernatorial race, Chaffetz joked that he is a “definite maybe.”

Rep. Chaffetz becomes the 14th House incumbent who will not be on the ballot for the next election, including the four remaining special congressional elections. At least another 15 members are reportedly considering seeking a different elective office, or outright retirement. Nine of the previously mentioned 14 are Republicans.

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District is safely Republican. President Trump took the district with 47.2 percent of the vote, while Hillary Clinton actually placed third, just behind Independent Evan McMullin at 23.3 percent. The 3rd was one of Mitt Romney’s strongest districts in the entire country. In 2012, he defeated President Obama, 78-19 percent, in this CD. Reviewing the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain won here with a 68-30 percent margin.

Continue reading

House Financials as Predictors

By Jim Ellis

April 19, 2017
— As we all know, actions speak louder than words. The US House first quarter campaign finance reports (through March 31, 2017) were publicized Monday and, tracking those members who have publicly indicated at least some interest in declaring a Senate challenge, we now have some tangible information to gauge which individuals might be serious about making a statewide run. A look below at the Senate incumbent and House challenger(s):

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
• Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix)
   $677,542 raised; $136,496 spent; $2,804,679 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Sinema has failed to confirm rumors that she is planning to run for Senate or governor. Considering that incumbent Sen. Flake is appearing in a more vulnerable state than Gov. Doug Ducey (R), it is more reasonable to think that a Sinema Senate challenge is the more likely. The congresswoman’s aggressive early campaign fundraising and already reaching just short of the $3 million mark in cash-on-hand makes her a very serious potential challenger.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
• Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Okeechobee)
   $73,552 raised; $59,359 spent; $84,848 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Rep. Rooney indicated several times that he has not closed the door on challenging Sen. Nelson. With little fundraising effort in the first quarter and Gov. Rick Scott (R) positioning himself for a Senate challenge, the financial numbers confirm that Rep. Rooney will not enter the statewide race.

Indiana: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D)
• Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg)
   $706,414 raised; $136,418 spent; $1,620,394 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
• Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg)
   $321,166 raised; $88,501 spent; $1,548,229 cash-on-hand; $0 debt
Both congressmen Messer and Rokita have impressive campaign accounts and are well positioned financially to launch a challenge against Sen. Donnelly. Messer has been the more aggressive early fundraiser, but it is conceivable that both could enter the Senate race.

Continue reading

O’Rourke to Run

By Jim Ellis

March 31, 2017 — Reports coming from Texas, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, indicate that three-term Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will formally announce a challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz (R). Will O’Rourke be a viable challenger, or will his campaign be nothing more than a political suicide run?

It will be interesting to see what type of arguments the El Paso congressman and his Democratic allies use in attempting to convince the Texas electorate to choose a Senate Democratic contender for the first time since the late Lloyd Bentsen (D) was last re-elected in 1988. It has been 26 years since the Democrats won any major Texas statewide election, last occurring in 1990 when Ann Richards became governor. Other Democratic statewide candidates were also swept into constitutional office that year, as they had been for previous generations. George W. Bush unseated Gov. Richards in 1994, which actually began the period of Texas Republican dominance that continues to this day.

Beating Sen. Cruz may actually be more difficult than running against a typical Republican incumbent, meaning one who did not actively oppose President Trump. Democrats who hope to take advantage of what is typically a favorable wave for the out party in a president’s first mid-term election, may have a difficult time wrapping Cruz in such a surge, if it is to form, since he was the president’s chief electoral opponent for the GOP nomination.

Continue reading

New Apportionment Patterns

By Jim Ellis

March 27, 2017 — The Census Bureau released new population estimate data at the end of last week, and their information about the largest growth areas and places losing the most residents helps us project how the states will change in congressional representation. With almost four years remaining until reapportionment occurs at the end of 2020, much can still change, but the current population shift patterns provide some early clues as to what may be the future state gain/loss formula.

According to the Bureau’s new estimates, Maricopa County (Arizona) ended 2016 as the nation’s largest growing local entity replacing Harris County (Texas), which had been in the first position for the last eight consecutive years. The population estimates show that the Phoenix area gained 81,360 people from July 1, 2015 to the same date one year later. The Houston area net resident total increased 56,587 during the same period.

The calculations analyze the natural increase (number of births outpacing the number of deaths), net domestic migration, meaning those who move from one part of America to another, and net international migration figures (those coming from other countries). Maricopa County’s totals meant that an average of 222 new people came to or were born in the domain each and every day during the 2015-2016 yearly midpoints.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Texas Redistricting – The Redux

By Jim Ellis

March 16, 2017 — After the 2003 Texas redistricting saga became synonymous with internal partisan political strife, a three-judge federal panel appears to have ordered the state to again become engulfed in another such battle.

The special panel ordered a re-draw of three districts, and the after-effects of reconstituting the seats will change several more adjoining CDs. The 35th District of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), which contains parts of Bexar (San Antonio), Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, and Travis (Austin) counties, was actually declared illegal back in 2011. The Supreme Court remanded that ruling back to the panel, and instructed them to take action. Now, after three elections cycles have already passed, the court has decided to move forward.

In addition to the Doggett seat, the 23rd (Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio), and 27th (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) CDs have also been declared unconstitutional, and will need to be re-drawn if the ruling is upheld.

The Democratic plaintiffs argued that the districts illegally pack Latino voters and were done so because of race. Emails emanating from Republican staff members participating in the process, and the messages contained in them, lent credence to the Democrats’ case thus culminating in this court decision.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Election 2016: Urban vs. Rural

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 26, 2017 — Now that the election returns are official and divided into congressional district and county totals, we can now see exactly how the presidential election unfolded.

It became clear from early Election Night totals that Donald Trump won the national vote because of his performance in the outer suburbs and rural areas in the 30 states that he carried over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His margins there, largely because of turnout, were enough to compensate for Clinton’s larger-than-expected advantages in the major cities and inner suburbs.

In looking at the country’s largest metropolitan statistical areas, we find that Clinton scored an average 59.9 percent of the vote, when averaging her percentage performance in the nation’s 10 most populous urban regions. This compares to President Trump’s 35.8 percent. Keep in mind that the national popular vote percentage total was 48.1 – 46.0 percent.

In the rural areas surrounding these specific urban centers, the numbers dramatically changed. Counterbalancing the Clinton margins in the metroplexes, Trump’s lead in the outer suburban and rural regions in the states he carried was roughly equivalent to the former secretary of state’s urban advantage but with greater turnout. In the corresponding Trump state rural regions, the new president averaged 56.8 percent as compared to Clinton’s 39.7 percent.

Continue reading

Open Seat News – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 13, 2017 — Continuing our review of the eight known open House districts, today’s update concludes with the final four seats either headed to a special election or whose electorate will choose a new incumbent in the regular 2018 cycle.

NM-1: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) has already announced that she will enter the open 2018 governor’s campaign. Incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term in office. The 1st District houses the city of Albuquerque and 95 percent of the state’s dominant county, Bernalillo. So far, no one has yet come forward to declare an official congressional candidacy, but many Democratic state and local officials would be well positioned to run. For Republicans, should they choose not to run for governor, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez and outgoing Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry would become prospective congressional contenders.

SC-5: President-Elect Donald Trump’s choice of South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) as Director of the Office of Management & Budget yields a special election in the north-central section of the state soon after the confirmation process concludes. The Palmetto State is very clear in terms of the special election schedule, thus leaving Gov. Nikki Haley (R) with no wiggle room pertaining to the campaign calendar. The primary contests will occur on the 11th Tuesday following an official declaration of the vacant seat. The run-offs, if necessary, will come on the 13th Tuesday after an official vacancy, with the general election transpiring on the 18th succeeding Tuesday. This means the special election cycle will consume just over four months. Therefore, if Mulvaney is confirmed sometime in February, we can expect a new 5th District Representative at a point in June.

Continue reading

Johnson to Retire; A Cruz Opponent?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2017 — Venerable Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX-3), one of the longest-held prisoners of war during the Vietnam War and a 32-year veteran of elective politics, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Counting all of the Trump cabinet appointees from the House and the two members who have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, we already have seven open House seats in coming elections.

Johnson will be 88 years old at the time of the next regular election and would retire after serving 14 terms in the House and another three in the Texas House of Representatives. He had been re-elected to a fourth term in the legislature just before winning a special election to replace outgoing Rep. Steve Bartlett (R), who had resigned after winning election as Mayor of Dallas.

The 3rd District is a safe Republican seat, though it dipped a bit in the presidential race. Though Donald Trump carried this north Texas CD, he did so with only a 55-41 percent margin. Mitt Romney carried the same district, 64-34 percent, four years ago.

TX-3 lies north to northeast of Dallas and contains the cities of Plano, McKinney, Frisco, and Allen. The Sam Rayburn Tollway borders the district on the north end and the President George Bush Turnpike nears the southern boundary. All of the overlapping state legislators are Republican in addition to the congressional representation.

Continue reading

Gaining and Losing

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 3, 2017 — At the end of 2016, the Census Bureau released its population estimates for the period beginning July 1, 2015 through July 1, 2016. The bureau reports some interesting data. Utah had the largest percentage growth (2.02 percent) of any state during that time span, while Illinois, West Virginia, Connecticut, and five others actually lost inhabitants. The other major gainers were also in the west: Nevada (1.95 percent) and Idaho (1.83 percent).

The states gaining the most individuals when calculating on a raw number basis for the tested 12-month period were Texas (432,957), Florida (367,525), California (256,077), and Washington (127,710).

The Illinois net total of 37,508 people leaving the state is the highest such number in the nation by more than a factor of three. Surveys suggested that high taxes, a lack of economic opportunity, and poor weather were the top reasons for the exodus.

Continue reading

How Trump Won Florida

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 11, 2016 — It was often discussed that Florida is the most important state on the Republican presidential map. Because the only big state that Republicans can count on is Texas, the generic GOP nominee must win Florida because there is simply no way to build a “gettable” coalition of states equaling 270 electoral votes that doesn’t include the Sunshine State’s 29. Therefore, after securing the 23 states that usually vote Republican in the presidential campaign, any winning GOP state plan must start with Florida.

The Tampa Times published an article yesterday that broke down the votes and showed the areas and demographics that made the difference for Donald Trump. With Hillary Clinton actually outperforming President Obama’s 2012 total in Miami-Dade and the Orlando area, Trump made up the deficit, and then some, in Tampa Bay and the rural regions.

Combined, Clinton racked up 134,000 more votes than President Obama did in Miami and Orlando four years ago, yet he won the state and she lost.

Continue reading

House Becoming Clearer

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 4, 2016 — The late turnout trends, as influenced greatly by how the presidential race is closing, may well be increasing Republican/right-of-center voter participation. If so, this will have great effect upon the House races, potentially holding down Democratic gains because more heavily contested GOP incumbents will survive.

Looking at all House as we head into the final weekend of campaigning, it appears that 226 seats are rated as Safe Republican, Republican Favored, or Lean Republican. Democrats look to have 189 seats where their candidates are rated as safe, favored or leaning to their party.

The remaining 20 are toss-up campaigns. Sixteen of these are in current Republican CDs, while the remaining four are Democratic.

Included in what we can refer to as the “decided count”, are five Republican seats headed to the Democratic column and one Dem seat returning to the GOP. Four of these six turning districts are directly related to the mid-decade redistricting process in Florida and Virginia.

The one Democratic seat going Republican is the open northern Florida seat of retiring Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee). Because the adjacent 5th District was drawn to elect a minority candidate in a drastically different manner than the previous 5th District, a major chunk of Rep. Graham’s Democratic base was removed from her 2nd District. Without a reasonable place to run for re-election, Graham retired after one term, but we will likely see her in the 2018 open governor’s race. The new 2nd District will go to Dr. Neal Dunn, who won a two-point Republican primary victory in late August. Under the new draw, the GOP nomination is tantamount to election in the fall.

Continue reading

The Real Races

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 10, 2016 — Last week, we concentrated on how the major party committees and principal outside organizations are spending their advertising money, and what their dollar commitments mean in terms of forecasting wins and losses.

The expenditures, backed with plausible polling, reveal those candidates the party strategists regard as contenders who can actually win or incumbents in need of substantial assistance. The spending charts also clearly identify the Republican members and candidates that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) leadership is willing to sacrifice in order to support their internal leadership preferences.

The Daily Kos Elections website staff members have constructed a chart to track the media spending of the two major US House support committees, the NRCC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and a key outside organization specifically supporting individual Democratic and Republican candidates. Daily Kos is tracking the House Majority Fund on the Democratic side and the Congressional Leadership Fund for the Republicans.

Continue reading