Tag Archives: Utah

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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A Shocking Retirement

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (R-Rochester)

New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (R-Rochester)

Oct. 10, 2017 — Since Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) announced he would run for the US Senate in late August, and after an additional eight US House seats opened in the succeeding weeks, none were as surprising as the latest one announced on Friday.

New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (R-Rochester), who represents the one seat that has defeated more incumbents than any other in the last decade including herself twice, announced that she will not seek re-election in 2018.

Her departure reasons were not part of the retirement statement but, for a woman who first came to Congress in 2006, was defeated in 2010, returned in 2012, and then lost again in 2014 before winning once more last November, her voluntary departure was certainly not predicted. Shea-Porter claimed another term in 2016, but with only 44 percent of the vote in part due to three Independent and minor party candidates taking more than 12.6 percent, but the number represented her lowest victory percentage.

Since the 2006 election, inclusive, the NH-1 electorate has consistently defeated its incumbent. In only 2008 was a US representative (Shea-Porter) here re-elected. The district encompasses New Hampshire’s eastern half, including the state’s largest city of Manchester, the Seacoast region, and the mountain area that hugs the Maine border. In the past six elections, the largest recorded win percentage was 54 percent (Republican Frank Guinta in 2010), while Shea-Porter never exceeded 51.7 percent.

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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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Senate Candidate Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 26, 2017
— Yesterday, we reviewed the first half of the 33 in-cycle Senate races in terms of serious candidate personnel. Today, the remaining 17 states are covered.

As a reminder, no current Senate incumbent has announced his or her retirement.

(Regular type means the individual is an announced contender; italics denote possible candidate.)

NEVADA — TOSS UP
Sen. Dean Heller (R)
Danny Tarkanian (R) – Businessman, frequent candidate
Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) – US Representative, 3rd District
Rep. Dina Titus (D) – US Representative, 1st District

NEW JERSEY — LIKELY D
Sen. Bob Menendez (D)
• Sen. Menendez federal trial has frozen potential Democratic and Republican Senate hopefuls. After the Menendez legal situation is decided, much could happen in this state.

NEW MEXICO — LIKELY D
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D)
Mick Rich (R) – State Labor Commission member
Richard Berry (R) – Albuquerque mayor
John Sanchez (R) – Lt. Governor

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AL Run-off; Curtis Wins

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 17, 2017 — The pre-election polling proved accurate Tuesday, as Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Senate Republican primary, as predicted, and will advance to a Sept. 26 run-off election.

The Trafalgar Group released the last poll for the special primary cycle. The survey (Aug. 12-13; 870 likely GOP primary voters) found Judge Moore holding 38 percent support, followed by appointed Sen. Luther Strange with 24 percent, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) dropping back to 17.5 percent. The results were almost precise for Moore, understated Sen. Strange’s support, and slightly missed Brooks’ finish.

With just over 417,000 individuals voting in the Republican primary Judge Moore captured 39 percent of the statewide Republican vote, enough to claim the first run-off position but a long way from securing a majority.

Sen. Strange easily took the second run-off slot with 33 percent finishing well ahead of the third place finisher, Congressman Brooks (20 percent).

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Special Elections Today

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2017 — Voters go to the polls today in the long-awaited Alabama special US Senate primary, the first tangible step in permanently replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. As we know, Sessions resigned his Senate seat early in the year to accept the top law enforcement position in the Trump administration.

Most of the special election campaign action is on the Republican side, as appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) fights to secure a run-off position.

With the nine GOP candidates clearly attracting enough support to prevent any one of them from capturing a majority and winning the party nomination outright today, moving to a Sept. 26 run-off vote appears certain. Polling suggests that former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will seize the first run-off position, but with 40 percent or less support. Sen. Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) are fighting for the second qualifying position with the other six candidates lagging behind.

The latest poll from the Trafalgar Group (Aug. 8-10; 1,439 likely Alabama GOP primary voters from more than 50,000 contacts), perhaps the most accurate survey research firm because of their most recent track record, finds Judge Moore capturing 35 percent support, with Sen. Strange far back at 23 percent and Rep. Brooks closing to 20 percent.

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New Alabama Data; UT-3 Formulating

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 8, 2017 — As we enter the final full week of campaigning before the Aug. 15 vote, a new political poll forecasts a different leader in the Republican special US Senate election primary. The survey reliability factor could be suspect, however.

During the July 31 – Aug. 3 period, RHH Elections conducted a poll of 426 self-identified Alabama GOP registered voters who say they will vote in the special Republican primary. All but 57 responded via the Interactive Voice Response system, and the former provided their responses through an online questionnaire. No live surveyors were part of the interview process, which weakens the reliability substantially.

That being said, the RHH numbers are within the realm of the other published poll results. The new data forecasts former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore as capturing the edge with 31 percent over the previous race leader, appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who is just two points behind, meaning the contest is a virtual tie between them with as much as 40 percent of the outstanding preference spread among the remaining seven candidates. The latter group includes US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) with 18 percent, state Sen. Trip Pittman (8 percent), and former Alabama Christian Coalition head Randy Brinson (2 percent). Those not stating a named candidate are categorized as undecided.

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Senate: What the Money Says

By Jim Ellis

July 20, 2017 — Though electronic filing is still not yet required for US Senate candidates, several incumbents and challengers have made their financial numbers available via the public media. Outlets such as the Daily Kos Elections page, The Hill, Politico, National Journal, and local news organizations have allowed us to grasp where some of the key races stand financially.

There has already been a great deal of discussion in recent days about the upcoming Arizona Senate contest, and the dollars raised again reveal a familiar pattern. For the second quarter in a row, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), who says she is not an active Senate candidate but is clearly readying herself in case an opportunity arises, i.e., incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake (R) attracting a strong Republican primary opponent, again raised $600,000 in a quarter, thus putting $3.2 million in her account, about $200,000 more than incumbent Flake.

Finances often give us clues as to impending political moves. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), the body’s oldest member at 84 years of age, raised just $600,000 in the second quarter and has $3.5 million in the bank. This is a low total for a senator from the nation’s largest state. This may be an indication that Feinstein may not seek re-election. In direct comparison, 83-year-old Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has been less committal about re-election than Sen. Feinstein and from a state a small fraction of California’s size, raised over $1 million in the quarter and has over $4 million cash-on-hand.

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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.

Utah Convention Winner

By Jim Ellis

June 23, 2017 — Last Saturday, in news that has been somewhat overshadowed by the recent special elections I’ve been writing about, former state Representative Chris Herrod, who challenged Sen. Orrin Hatch for re-nomination in 2012, won the special Republican nominating convention to replace outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy). Herrod advances to the Aug. 15 Republican primary to face Provo Mayor John Curtis and businessman Tanner Ainge, who both qualified for the ballot via petition signature.

Once Rep. Chaffetz announced he would leave the House without completing his current term, Gov. Gary Herbert (R) scheduled the replacement special election to include an Aug. 15 primary and a Nov. 7 general election. The political parties had the option of holding a nominating convention, which the Republicans quickly scheduled for this past Saturday, June 17. They changed the normal party rules to select one candidate for advancement rather than two if no candidate received 60 percent of the delegate vote.

Almost 800 Republican precinct delegates gathered in Provo for the special election vote. Eleven candidates were on the ballot, and it took five rounds of voting before Herrod emerged with a majority vote. On the final ballot, he defeated state Sen. Deidre Henderson, 415-338, for 55.1 percent of those present and voting, thus exceeding the majority mark and clinching the official party endorsement.

In regular Utah convention politics, candidates are required to receive 60 percent of the delegate vote to, if no candidates qualify by petition signature, clinch the actual party nomination. Because this is a special congressional election, the first held in Utah since 1930, the party leaders altered the convention rules to produce only one winner once 50 percent support was obtained. The fact that at least one other candidate would apparently qualify via signature -– an onerous requirement of 7,000 valid signatures gathered exclusively with circulators from the 3rd District -– factored heavily in the leaders’ decision to change the convention rules. This way, they could limit the number of primary participants.

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The Lineup to Replace
Chaffetz in Utah

By Jim Ellis

May 31, 2017 — The replacement process for Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Alpine/ Sandy) southeastern Utah congressional 3rd District seat is moving forward with both clarity and cloudiness. The field of 15 Republican special election candidates include a mayor, three state legislators, a former state representative, a radio talk show host, an advertising executive, the son of a local college basketball star and two attorneys, among others. Democrats feature no elected officials in their mix of four contenders. They have yet to schedule a party nominating convention.

Of the group, already Provo Mayor John Curtis and Tanner Ainge, son of Boston Celtics general manager and former Brigham Young University basketball star Danny Ainge, have already said they will use the petition process to place their names on the ballot. The vast majority of the others will enter the party convention.

Going the petition route, however, is no sure option. With a requirement to gather 7,000 valid registered voter signatures from within the district boundaries by June 12 means the project features a high degree of prospective failure.

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UT-3: More Clarity?

By Jim Ellis

May 31, 2017 — The replacement process for soon-to-be ex-Congressman Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Alpine/ Sandy) southeastern Utah congressional seat has just become clearer in some ways, but not in others.

Candidate filing closed on Friday, and 15 Republicans, four Democrats, one Libertarian, and two Independents filed for the impending special election. But, most will not qualify for the Aug. 15 primary ballot. Those wanting to run as Independents still have until June 12 to file, so it will be several weeks before we know each of the eventual primary candidates’ identities.

The Utah political parties typically employ a nominating convention as the first step in choosing final contenders for the various partisan offices. When Gov. Gary Herbert (R) scheduled the current special election, he indicated that the parties continue to retain the option of holding a nominating convention. Republicans have decided to do so, scheduling their confab for the fast approaching June 17th date. Yet, even the convention delegates’ designating a presumed nominee does not necessarily negate holding a primary.

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Utah’s Lightning Speed; Norman Wins

By Jim Ellis

May 23, 2017 — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) just scheduled the special election to replace resigning Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy), and the candidate filing deadline will occur even before the congressman leaves office.

Chaffetz announced last week that he will resign from the House effective June 30. It was thought there would be a battle over the UT-3 special election process because Utah election law sets no procedure parameters. The state has not hosted a special federal election since 1930.

Utah election law merely says that a special election will be scheduled in the event of a vacancy. Some in the legislature are indicating that they need to be called into special session to determine the procedure, i.e., primary schedule, whether a nominating convention will be held, etc.

But over the weekend, Gov. Herbert usurped such an idea and had Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) publicly announce the special election schedule.

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More Chaffetz Intrigue

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

April 24, 2017 — House Oversight & Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3) made a great deal of news over the past week. He surprisingly announced that he would not seek re-election in 2018; Chaffetz said he’s been away from his family in Utah too long during his four-plus terms in Congress, and desires to return to the private sector, yet he left the door wide open about running for governor in 2020.

Then, Rep. Chaffetz indicated that he was considering resigning before the term ends. In fact, late last week, rumors were circulating through media outlets that the congressman was going to leave the House as early as Friday.

Then Rep. Chaffetz somewhat clarified the situation saying that while he would not likely serve the remaining 20 months of the current term, he wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon and certainly not within days. The representative told the Salt Lake City Tribune that, “if I do it, it’s going to be months from now.” Chaffetz also disclosed that he is in discussions with an unidentified company about a private-sector position.

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