Biden Suggests Primary Schedule; Maine’s King Prepping for Re-Election Campaign; A Budding GOP Primary Challenge in VA-9; Louisiana’s Gov Race Hinges on Kennedy

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Dec. 5, 2022

President

President Joe Biden

Primaries: President Biden Suggests Schedule — Considering that the White House will have a major say as to how the new Democratic presidential nomination rules are changed, President Biden shared his idea for a new primary schedule. He suggests South Carolina, the state that launched his own victory through the previous nomination process, be the first state to vote. He then says that New Hampshire and Nevada, voting on the same day, should be scheduled a week after the Palmetto State with Georgia and Michigan following on successive Tuesdays. This idea would increase the number of places voting before Super Tuesday from four to five.

Senate

Maine: Sen. Angus King (I) Preparing for Re-Election Campaign — Sen. Angus King (I), who has previously overcome both skin and prostate cancer, is reportedly planning to seek re-election in 2024 when he will be 80 years old. The senator, who previously served two terms as Maine’s governor, was first elected to his federal office in 2012. At the time, it appeared the 2018 campaign would be his last, but retiring at the end of the succeeding Congress does not now look to be the senator’s ultimate career path.

Sen. King runs as an Independent on the Maine ballot but caucuses with the Democrats, as does New England neighboring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Should he indeed run in 2024, it will be the first time Sen. King will experience Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting system. Considering this situation, the veteran office holder may draw stronger opposition than in his past election campaigns.

House

VA-9: A Budding GOP Primary Challenge — Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who was just re-elected to a seventh term with 73.5 percent of the vote, may be drawing a 2024 Republican primary challenge. Freshman state Delegate Marie March (R-Floyd) made a statement late last week saying that Rep. Griffith has “been in Congress too long,” and hinted that she might challenge him in the next GOP primary.

Rep. Griffith was first elected in 2010, defeating long-time incumbent Rick Boucher (D) and has had little in the way of competition ever since. He’s averaged 72.4 percent in his six re-election victories and has not yet faced a Republican primary challenge.

Governor

Louisiana: Yielding to Sen. Kennedy — Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder (R) announced late last week that he will run for governor next year unless, he said, Sen. John Kennedy (R) enters the jungle primary field. If Kennedy does run, Schroder will opt to seek re-election. Sen. Kennedy, fresh from a 62 percent jungle ballot election victory in November that saw him winning a second US Senate term outright, is expected to enter the governor’s race and be considered the clear front runner. The senator says he will make a decision after the first of the year. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Michigan Senate Okays Primary Move; Sen. Braun Moving Toward Indiana Gov Race; West Virginia Senator’s Son Announces for Gov

By Jim Ellis — Friday, Dec. 2, 2022

President

Michigan: State Senate Okays Primary Move — The Michigan Senate approved a bill to move up the Wolverine State presidential primary from the day designated as Super Tuesday in March to the second Tuesday in February. The move underscores the state leadership’s desire to move Michigan into one of the state slots allowed to vote before Super Tuesday.

With the Democrats clearly preparing to change the nominating rules, voting schedule, and primary order of the states, Michigan is attempting to get a head start toward being one of at least the first four states to vote before Super Tuesday. If the state formally takes this action, it is likely that the Republicans would have to follow suit and schedule the Michigan primary early in the process.

Senate

Indiana: Sen. Braun Moving Toward Gov Race — As expected, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun (R) filed papers with the Secretary of State’s office in Indianapolis Tuesday to become an open-seat gubernatorial candidate, which is his first step toward foregoing re-election to a second term in the US Senate. Incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is ineligible to seek a third term under Indiana’s term limit law.

Should he become a candidate, Sen. Braun will very likely face credible opposition in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Already venture capitalist Eric Doden (R) has announced his Senate candidacy. Other potential names being bandied about include former two-term Gov. Mitch Daniels, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, retiring Congressman Trey Hollingsworth (R-Jeffersonville), and former state senator and ex-Indianapolis mayoral candidate Jim Merritt. For the Democrats, the only announced candidate is Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick.

Assuming he shortly makes a formal announcement of candidacy, the Indiana Senate seat will be the first to open in the 2024 election cycle.

House

IN-3: Rep. Banks Signals Interest in Senate — With Indiana Sen. Braun (R) making moves to enter the open governor’s race, a fierce Republican primary battle for the right to succeed him in the Senate is sure to occur. Already saying through a spokesman that he is considering competing for the open statewide position is US Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City), who was recently defeated in his run for House Majority Whip. Other Republican names popping up are Attorney General Todd Rokita, retiring US Rep. Hollingsworth, and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), who was just re-elected to a second term. Term-limited Gov. Holcomb’s (R) political plans at this point are unknown.

Should Banks run for the Senate, we can expect a heated open battle for his northeastern Indiana 3rd District seat anchored in Ft. Wayne. A crowded GOP primary is sure to form with the winner punching his or her ticket to Washington in a district that the FiveThirtyEight organization rates as R+34.

Governor

West Virginia: Senator’s Son Announces for Governor — West Virginia state Delegate Moore Capito (R-Charleston), son of US Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and grandson of the late former Gov. Arch Moore (R), this week announced his own campaign for governor. He hopes to succeed term-limited Gov. Jim Justice (R) who may soon launch his own run for US Senate. Delegate Capito was first elected to the state House in 2016 and currently chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

McCarthy’s Math

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022

House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

Leadership — The announcement from several Republicans saying they will not vote for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the election for Speaker of the House even after he was overwhelmingly chosen the party nominee for the position makes the mathematics of his achieving a majority vote a bit tricky. The leadership election will be decided when the new members are sworn into office on Jan. 3. 

The sudden and unfortunate passing of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) reduces the number of members taking the oath of office on commencement day to 434. Even so, McCarthy would still need 218 votes if all are present and voting. Therefore, the McEachin death does not reduce McCarthy’s majority quota, but it could become a factor if a “present” vote strategy were to come into play.

Another complicating factor is the outcome of the lone outstanding House race, the CA-13 contest in the Fresno Valley. Republican candidate John Duarte, a local farmer and agri-businessman, predicted that he will eventually win the election once officials finally count all the ballots. 

Duarte supports his prediction by pointing out that most of the uncounted ballots are from Fresno and San Joaquin Counties in areas where the Republican performed better than his opponent, state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). Currently, the district-wide count is stalled with Duarte clinging to a 593-vote lead. If the remaining votes from the five counties perform like the counted ballots, Duarte would win by approximately 483 votes. There is, however, no guarantee that the uncounted ballots will fall in similar fashion, thus the race is still up for grabs.

A Duarte win, however, would increase the Republican Conference size to 222, and that extra vote would be important for the McCarthy-Speaker equation. It is also possible that recounts and legal challenges to individual ballots will hold up the certification of a winner in that race for an undetermined amount of time, thus possibly delaying a new member from being sworn in until after the Speaker vote. If this were to happen, the total House membership would drop to 433, and McCarthy would then need 217 votes to establish a majority as opposed to 218.

His bigger problem is that six Republican members have publicly stated they either will not support him in the floor vote or questioned his leadership ability. According to press reports, the four saying they will not support McCarthy on the floor are Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Bob Good (R-VA), and Ralph Norman (R-SC). The pair publicly questioning his leadership ability are Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) and Chip Roy (R-TX). 
 
There has been some talk that members voting “present” would actually reduce the number of votes to determine a voting majority. While this theory would be open to legal or parliamentary challenge, for the purposes of this example let’s see if such a strategy would work.

If the six members either committing to vote against McCarthy, or possibly doing so, were to simply vote present, and the majority number is truly reduced, then McCarthy would look to have 216 votes as compared to the Democratic likely Speaker candidate, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ (D-NY), 212 votes. Within this scenario, the “present” strategy would work because the aggregate counted votes would be 428, thus making the majority number 215.

If those six members, or any others, would vote for an individual other than McCarthy when answering the initial House roll call, then the result would be costly. Under this vote count, McCarthy would be one short of securing the majority.

The other idea being bandied about is having some of McCarthy’s supporters vote “present” in order to reduce the number necessary for securing a majority vote. This would be a very dangerous strategy because his margin is so small that he would come precariously close of dropping below Mr. Jeffries’ 212 votes, assuming the Democratic Conference votes in lock-step. Even one miscount on the roll call vote could elect Jeffries if this idea were attempted.

If McCarthy has 216 votes and the six opposition Republicans were to all vote for other individuals, then the supporter “present” strategy simply wouldn’t work because the McCarthy-committed vote would drop commensurately with the number needed for a majority.

Therefore, the only true path for McCarthy to win the Speakership race is to, first, ensure that no other fall-off is coming from the Republican ranks; second, that no other GOP candidate emerges with potentially more strength; third, that no hybrid coalition forms with the Democrats; and fourth, reaching an arrangement with his six Republican opponents to at least vote “present” in order to allow for a smaller majority number. 

Dems Lead in Early Voting in Georgia Runoff; VA-4 Rep. McEachin Passes Away; Defeated Rep. Herrell Already Files to Run Again

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022

Senate

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker

Georgia: Dems Lead in Early Voting; Two Favorable Polls for Walker — With the Georgia Senate runoff fast approaching on Dec. 6, the early voting, or Advance Voting as the procedure is called in Georgia, is widely favoring the Democrats. After the state Supreme Court granted Advance Voting to begin when the Democratic plaintiffs requested, it was clear that the party would score a large advantage in the pre-election ballot casting process. Republicans typically catch up to early voting disparities on election day itself.

Polling, however, suggests that the race is anything but over. Two surveys were recently released, from Phillips Academy and Frederick Polls, and they arrived at similar conclusions. Phillips (Nov. 26-27; 862 likely Georgia runoff voters; interactive voice response system and text) finds Republican Herschel Walker leading Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) by a single point, 48-47 percent. Frederick (Nov. 23-26; 939 Georgia runoff likely voters) shows the two men breaking even at 50-50 percent. It is presumed the latter survey was pushing initial undecideds to take a position, but the actual study and crosstabs were not released.

The polling suggests that the electorate remains virtually split in this race, almost exactly what we saw in the November tally when Sen. Warnock placed ahead of Mr. Walker, 49.4 – 48.5 percent, but fell short of the majority threshold.

House

VA-4: Rep. Don McEachin (D) Passes Away — Three-term Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) passed away Monday evening after a long battle with cancer. McEachin was re-elected to a fourth term on Nov. 8 with 65 percent of the vote in a 4th Congressional District that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as D+30.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will schedule a special election to replace McEachin in accordance with state law. The true battle for the seat will come in the Democratic primary. Candidates will likely begin announcing for the special election after McEachin in laid to rest.

NM-2: Defeated Rep. Herrell Files 2024 Committee — US Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo) is wasting no time in recovering from her tight 50.3 – 49.6 percent loss to Rep-Elect Gabe Vasquez (D-Las Cruces). Yesterday, it was reported that she filed a 2024 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission.

This action does not necessarily mean she has decided to run in 2024. Filing a new committee allows her to raise more money in preparation for a proposed race without becoming an official candidate. Herrell certainly may run again but will probably wait to make a final decision until she sees whether the two impending US Supreme Court redistricting rulings will affect the New Mexico congressional lines. The decisions on the Alabama and North Carolina redistricting cases are due before the end of next June.

A re-draw could certainly help Herrell or any other Republican who wants to run for the 2nd District seat. The Democratic legislature changed the district lines under the 2021 map. According to the FiveThirtyEight data organization the previous map rated the 2nd District as R+14. The changes converted the seat into a D+4, thus leading to the 2022 election result.

Murkowski Re-Elected, Peltola Wins Full Term in Alaska; CA-13 is The Last Outstanding Race to be Called

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

Senate

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

Alaska: Sen. Murkowski Re-Elected — Over the Thanksgiving break, we saw several more races called. The complete results came in Alaska where the final tabulations, including the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) rounds, were released and contests decided.

As expected, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) was re-elected after nipping former State Administration Director Kelly Tshibaka (R), 43.4 – 42.6 percent in the aggregate vote, a margin of 1,914 votes. In the first RCV round, with fourth place finisher Buzz Kelley’s (R) votes being distributed, the race became even tighter, with Sen. Murkowski’s lead reduced to only 44.5 – 44.3 percent, a spread of just 339 votes. 

The final result was easily predictable, and one could argue Sen. Murkowski really won her re-election when people voted to change the state’s election system in 2020. Initiated with support from the senator’s political organization, the hybrid jungle primary/Ranked Choice Voting system allowed Sen. Murkowski to skip what was her most vulnerable election, a partisan Republican primary. With four people now automatically advancing into the general election, the partisan nomination phase within the traditional election cycle was in effect eliminated. In 2010, Sen. Murkowski lost the Republican primary, but was re-elected when she won a write-in Independent campaign in that year’s general election.

House

AK-AL: Rep. Peltola Wins Full Term — After winning the August special election through the Ranked Choice Voting system to replace the late Alaska Rep. Don Young (R), at-large Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Bethel) has now clinched a full term after the state’s preliminary final vote count was released the day before Thanksgiving. The end result was predictable, especially when Rep. Peltola easily placed first in the aggregate count, with a 49-26-23 percent margin over former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and businessman Nick Begich III (R).

The first round of Ranked Choice Voting, which eliminated distant fourth-place finisher Chris Bye (Libertarian), almost put Peltola over the top. In this round, against both Palin and Begich, Rep. Peltola scored 49.2 percent of the adjusted vote. This result meant eliminating Begich, who was the third-place finisher. The third RCV round easily went to Rep. Peltola, who defeated Palin on a 55-45 percent tabulation. The Peltola victory increases the House Democratic Conference to 213 members as compared to the Republicans’ 221 with one California race remaining outstanding.

CA-13: The Last One Outstanding — We now have 434 US House races projected and the final partisan division count comes down to the end result from California’s new 13th Congressional District in the Fresno area. This post-election period could go on for some time.

The aggregate count, with a projected 96 percent of the votes recorded, although these estimates have not proven particularly reliable throughout the California counting process, gives Republican agri-businessman John Duarte a 593-vote lead over state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). The county with the largest outstanding vote at a 90 percent estimated recorded figure, is Stanislaus, which slightly favors Gray.

Depending upon this last outcome, the Republican House majority will be either 221-214 or 222-213. Another Speaker vote for California Republican Kevin McCarthy could also be critical in relation to how that internal race unfolds on Jan. 3.

We can expect further days before a preliminary count is revealed, and it is likely we will see a long period of vote challenges from both sides prior to final certification of a winner. The California election certification deadline is Dec. 16.

Governor

Alaska: Gov. Dunleavy Re-Elected Outright — One race that did not need a Ranked Choice Voting round was the Alaska governor’s contest. Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) won a second term in the aggregate count, scoring 50.3 percent of the vote against three other candidates.

In a distant second place was Democratic former state representative Les Gara who posted 24.2 percent of the vote, while former Gov. Bill Walker, again running as an Independent, followed. The latter man recorded 20.7 percent of the aggregate popular vote. In the final general election qualifying position was Republican former Kenai Borough Peninsula Mayor Charlie Pierce who managed to secure only 4.5 percent of the vote.

Gov. Dunleavy, who faced an aborted recall effort early in his tenure, is the first re-elected Alaska chief executive since Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles won a second term in 1998.