Tag Archives: West Virginia

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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Another Trump Appointment;
A Double-Digit West Virginia Poll

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 7, 2017 — White House personnel this week announced that President Trump will nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) as the new director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The appointment was expected to happen much earlier in the year, but a serious illness in the congressman’s family forced him to ask the administration for a postponement.

Should Rep. Marino move quickly through the confirmation process we would likely see another congressional special election called, similar to the situation involving Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s (R-OK) appointment as NASA administrator, in order to fill the remainder of the current term.

There is a good bet, however, that Senate Democrats will want to delay Marino’s confirmation as long as possible. With a live redistricting lawsuit making its way through the Pennsylvania court system, the Dems hope a potential re-draw will significantly change the statewide map, and specifically this district, in time for the 2018 regular election.

The 10th District, which contains 10 complete Pennsylania counties and parts of five others, occupies the entire northeastern corner of the Keystone State that borders New York and New Jersey, encompasses the territory around the cities of Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, and then shoots southwest past the Harrisburg-Carlisle area as far as the Tuscarora State Forest. Since 1952 inclusive, the district has voted Democratic only three times in congressional elections. During much of the succeeding six decades, veteran Rep. Joe McDade (R-Scranton) represented the region. He was in office for 36 years from the early 60s to the late 90s.

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A New Republican Governor

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 7, 2017 — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made national news the other night at President Trump’s rally in Huntington, WV, when the Democratic state chief executive took the stage to announce that he is switching to the Republican Party.

When addressing the Trump rally, Justice said, “like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me … West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic governor.”

The move now gives Republicans control of the entire West Virginia governmental apparatus, owning both houses of the state legislature and the governor’s office. Factoring Justice’s party change, the GOP holds the West Virginia chief executive post for the first time since Gov. Arch Moore (R) was defeated for re-election in 1988. There are now 26 states where Republicans control the legislature and governor’s office, including Nebraska where the legislature only has one ostensibly non-partisan legislative chamber but is clearly overwhelmingly Republican. In contrast, Democrats have full power in only five states.

The development means the Democrats drop to holding just 15 governors, an all-time low number for the party. Republicans, on the other hand, reach their historical apex with 34 governors as party members. The 50th governor, Bill Walker of Alaska, is an Independent.

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One In, One Out

By Jim Ellis

July 13, 2017 — Two major announcements occurred during the last few days resulted in one individual becoming an official statewide candidate and another withdrawing from a campaign that had already begun.

West Virginia Senate

As had been expected for some time, two-term West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced his campaign for the United States Senate. He will face two-term Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) in the Republican primary, with the winner drawing a difficult political match with Sen. Joe Manchin (D).

With average win percentages of 62 percent over two elections as governor (2004, ’08) in addition to a pair of Senate campaigns (2010 special election; 2012), Sen. Manchin appears to be in strong shape as he approaches his 2018 re-election. But, there are some cracks in his armor, hence the presence of two strong GOP opponents.

Though Sen. Manchin has attempted to cross the partisan line in his public relationship with President Trump and the Republican leadership on several issues, it is still a net negative for the senator to campaign on the same political landscape that proved to be the former’s second strongest state (69 percent).

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Opposing Manchin

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2017 — Though West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) purports to be in strong political position for his impending 2018 re-election campaign, he is beginning to draw a cluster of Republican opponents.

At the beginning of the week, two-term US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) declared his intention to run for the Senate and launched his effort with a video announcement that takes Sen. Manchin to task (see video above).

Next week, Rep. David McKinley (R-Wheeling) said he will announce his intentions with regard to the Senate race, though up until a few days ago he had not even been mentioned as a potential candidate. The congressman is still not expected to enter the race, however. On the other hand, it is a virtual certainty that two-term GOP Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will soon make official his budding US Senate candidacy.

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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.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

March 22, 2017 — In our fourth and final installment in this update report series, we examine the latest happenings for the remaining seven 2018 US Senate campaigns.

• Utah: Now that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is sending signals that he will run for an eighth term (he is already the longest-serving Republican senator in history) much less political attention will be paid to this state. Should Hatch decide to retire, then former Massachusetts governor and presidential nominee Mitt Romney will become the center of attention. Romney made statements earlier in the year that he would consider running for the Senate from Utah. The context, however, was in the realm of an impending Hatch retirement. Same for former Utah governor and presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, but his likely appointment as ambassador to Russia means the former governor will be removed from the Senate picture irrespective of Sen. Hatch’s status.

In any event, this seat will remain in Republican hands. Currently, it appears that the senator will seek re-election and is projected to win again in 2018.

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The Trump 10

By Jim Ellis

March 2, 2017 — There already has been a great deal of talk about the difficult campaign road ahead that Democrats face in 2018. With having to defend 25 of 34 states in next year’s election, the minority party finds itself being forced to play defense in what should be a very offensive election cycle for them.

Republicans, theoretically, have a chance to gain seats in the midterms because they have offensive opportunities, similar to what the Democrats enjoyed in 2016. In that cycle, Republicans were forced to defend 24 of 34 in-cycle states, but were able to sustain their majority status, nonetheless.

The Trump 10 refers to the number of in-cycle Senate states that President Trump carried, where Democrats must defend. The following is a list of the 10 incumbents seeking re-election who should be in politically precarious positions. The group is listed in order of vulnerability, based upon the Democratic performance in the presidential race, the strength of the incumbent, and presumed challenger capability.

1) Indiana – Sen. Joe Donnelly – President Trump and the Republicans, ostensibly led by Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, racked up large percentages in the Hoosier State. The trend, and the quality of potential Republican challengers such as representatives Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), arguably makes Sen. Donnelly the most vulnerable of Democrats seeking re-election.

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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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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.

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Picking Democratic Senators;
Rep. Becerra Tapped for A.G.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 5, 2016 — Donald Trump may be looking to find cabinet members who bring him immediate tangible policy and political benefits. A new prospective appointee, if chosen, would even increase the president-elect’s strength in the United States Senate.

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) made her way to New York yesterday to speak with Trump. If the president-elect tabbed her for an administration position, it would allow him to reach out to Democrats while simultaneously paving the way for incoming Gov. Doug Burgum (R) to appoint a Republican to replace her. Assuming John Kennedy (R) wins the Louisiana Senate run-off on Dec. 10, as expected, replacing Heitkamp would boost the Senate Republican Conference to 53 members.

The senator won a close upset victory in 2012, defeating one-term at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) by a one-point margin. She is now preparing for what is likely to be a highly competitive 2018 re-election bid, but accepting a position in the Trump Administration would obviously require her to resign the Senate seat. With North Dakota voting patterns now going solidly Republican – Trump received 63 percent in the Nov. 8 election compared to 58 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012, and John McCain’s 53 percent eight years ago – Republican conversion prospects in a post-appointment election would be bright should Heitkamp depart.

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Trump Towers

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2016 — Though his presidential campaign opponents have dropped out of the race, it was still a point of curiosity to examine Donald Trump’s recorded percentages in the last two Tuesday primaries.

It was a foregone conclusion that he would win West Virginia – he’s done very well in coal country, and this state is in many ways the industry’s home – but Nebraska is likely a state that would have voted for Sen. Ted Cruz had the contested campaign continued.

True to form, Trump broke 75 percent of the vote in West Virginia and topped 60 percent in Nebraska. This suggests that many establishment Republicans coming out against him during the past week had little effect on the individuals voting in these two primaries.

Though Hillary Clinton remains the presumed Democratic nominee, she lost yet another primary. After she spoke out earlier about shutting down the coal industry — something that wouldn’t go over well in West Virginia — it was expected she would falter in the Mountain State. She did. True to form, Sen. Bernie Sanders beat her 51-36 percent. However, Clinton did manage to place first in the Nebraska primary, a beauty contest for Democrats since the delegates were apportioned weeks ago.

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Nebraska, West Virginia Primaries

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2016 — Though the presidential nomination contests are virtually over, voters are still streaming to the polls for nine Republican and 13 Democratic intra-party elections. Now that we are progressing further into the election cycle more states include down ballot races along with the presidential contest. That was the case in Nebraska and West Virginia yesterday. Though Hillary Clinton remains the presumed Democratic nominee, she lost yet another primary. It was expected she would fall in West Virginia after coming out earlier for shutting down the coal industry. True to form, Bernie Sanders beat her 51-36 percent. She did manage to place first in the Nebraska primary, a beauty contest for Democrats since the delegates were apportioned weeks ago.

Nebraska

It was interesting to see how presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump fared in Nebraska, capturing 60 percent of the vote. Original projections slated this state for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and with it 36 winner-take-all Cornhusker delegates. Trump now wins, but the percentage is worth noting. The Midwest and Rocky Mountain region has been Cruz’s strongest territory, in addition to his home state of Texas, which is one reason Trump’s Indiana victory last week became so significant. The changing regional political winds in a state originally thought certain to go to Cruz helped end the race.

With many Republican establishment leaders publicly eschewing Trump’s candidacy, it doesn’t appear these actions hurt the future nominee and may actually have helped reinforce his independent, anti-establishment persona.

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Where We’re Headed

By Jim Ellis

April 29, 2016 — The 2016 presidential campaign has taken a dramatic turn in a very short amount of time. Is the race reaching its end, or will we see yet another twist?

Before last week’s New York primary, Donald Trump was reeling, clearly experiencing the most significant momentum downturn since his campaign began. Then came the primary, and he exceeded his pre-determined delegate goal, thus righting the ship. In this week’s eastern regional primary, the real estate mogul performed in similar fashion and even topped his New York finish. Now, it is Sen. Ted Cruz who is suddenly facing elimination as the Indiana primary quickly approaches next Tuesday. For Trump to remain on his first-ballot victory track, he must take at least 39 votes from the 57 Indiana Republican delegates.

According to The Green Papers.com website that compiles political statistics, Trump has a first-ballot delegate count of 956, which tells us he is 281 away from winning the nomination. This means that the GOP front-runner must obtain 56 percent of the remaining 502 delegates from the 10 states yet to vote. Trump is the only candidate who can qualify for a first-ballot victory and do so without the aid of unbound delegates. Sen. Cruz and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) can now only band together in hopes of denying Trump the outright majority in order to force a contested convention.

Now it is Sen. Cruz who desperately needs a win. Since his new goal is to deny Trump as many delegates as possible, any sizeable Indiana victory will blunt his opponent’s momentum and stop the march toward a first ballot nomination. Gov. Kasich’s decision to not campaign there will help, but there will have to be a sizable push from the Ohio governor to encourage his Indiana supporters to vote for Cruz. With a series of recent polls finding Cruz trailing Trump from five to eight points, the Kasich push is a critical component for the Texas senator to move into first place. Failure to win Indiana may prove fatal to Sen. Cruz’s 2016 presidential aspirations.

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New York Landslide a Precursor?

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2016
— Donald Trump exceeded expectations last night in New York by capturing what appears to be 90 of the Empire State’s 95 delegates. Needing to score approximately 80 delegates to get back on track for a long-shot first ballot victory at the Republican National Convention in July, Trump did significantly better in his home state than pre-election projections foretold.

Trump garnered 60.5 percent of the statewide vote, making this the first time he has scored a majority in a primary. Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) was second with 25.1 percent, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz could manage only a 14.5 percent vote total.

Ironically, the only one of the 62 counties Trump failed to carry was New York County, or Manhattan Borough, which is his home. Gov. Kasich took Manhattan, and won the remaining five NY delegates.

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