Monthly Archives: April 2017

More Alabama Drama

By Jim Ellis

April 14, 2017 — In office now just a few days, new Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is reportedly contemplating a major electoral decision that will add to Alabama’s considerable political intrigue. According to a spokesperson for Ivey, the governor is considering changing the special election schedule as it relates to appointed US Sen. Luther Strange’s (R) situation.

In a controversial decision, former Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appointed then-Attorney General Strange to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) immediately after the latter was confirmed as US attorney general. The move was controversial since Strange was reportedly investigating the governor regarding the situation for which he resigned earlier this week, but during the appointment process said that no such inquiry was underway. After the Senate appointment was made and a new state attorney general installed, it was confirmed that a Bentley investigation was in fact quickly progressing.

In addition to choosing Strange to replace Sen. Sessions, Gov. Bentley scheduled the special election to fill the balance of the current Senate term to run concurrently with the regular 2018 election schedule. Some argued that Bentley exceeded his authority because the state’s special election law indicates the vote should be called “forthwith.” Bentley and his legal team argued that the “forthwith” reference in the Alabama statute referred to officially calling the election, but not necessarily to conducting the vote. Bentley also argued it is more cost effective to hold the special concurrently with the regular general election rather than incur the expense of running a stand-alone statewide vote.

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Alabama Governor

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2017 — Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) resignation from office Monday, and his reported plea bargain agreement relating to charges that he squandered public and campaign funds in connection with maintaining and then covering up an extra-marital affair with a state employee changes the current Alabama political picture.

Bentley was ineligible to seek a third term, and his resignation comes ahead of what looked to be a sure impeachment. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ascended to the governor’s office immediately upon Bentley’s resignation becoming official. Though she had not announced a campaign for governor next year, it was widely believed that Ivey would become a candidate.

Now that she is governor, it remains to be seen if the long line of potential gubernatorial candidates will move forward with their own campaigns, remain on the sidelines if it looks like she will become a strong incumbent, or look toward appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) who must stand for election in 2018 to serve the balance of the current term.

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Kansas Expectations

By Jim Ellis

April 11, 2017 — Today is Election Day in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, the Wichita-anchored seat left vacant when then-Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) was appointed CIA Director. Republican state Treasurer Ron Estes is favored over Democratic attorney James Thompson in a race that is only now catching some national attention.

Neither candidate has been strong on the fundraising circuit. The national Democrats have done next to nothing for Thompson, not believing he had a chance to win the strongly Republican district. The GOP apparatus has come in late to run ads painting Thompson as an extremist, particularly in the area of abortion, and possibly indicating that internal data is not showing Estes in as strong a position as necessary from their perspective.

Media stories have been trying to paint the race as close, quoting GOP strategists as admitting the contest could be within single digits.

Trying to place realistic expectations around the outcome tonight, the GOP’s Estes should win with a victory percentage in the high 50s. Though some may believe Estes’ margin should be greater, the average vote percentages and the overlay of other races suggests that a GOP win in the 56-59 percent range would mean the campaign performed in accordance with historical voting trends.

An Estes winning percentage under 55 percent, however, will lead to Democrats and the media proclaiming that Thompson’s better-than-expected showing is reflective of national disapproval with President Trump and the Republican Congress. They will begin to draw parallels between the KS-4 result and how such developing trends will continue for the coming three special elections in the other vacated Republican US House districts.

There is little chance that Thompson wins the race. The Republican registration advantage here is 20 percentage points and unless the party turnout drops well below normal special election levels, Estes will be victorious.

Early voting does not indicate a Republican turnout drought. According to election officials, approximately 13,000 ballots from registered Republicans have been returned as compared to just over 10,000 for Democrats. Some 3,400 ballots have come from unaffiliated, or Independent, voters.

KS-4: Special Election

By Jim Ellis

April 11, 2017 –National Republicans are investing in media and digital ads at the very end of the Kansas special congressional election cycle in order to infuse energy into what has been a lackluster campaign effort from GOP nominee Ron Estes.

The 4th District of Kansas contains 16 south-central Sunflower State counties and a sliver of Pawnee County. Sedgwick County, home to the city of Wichita, is the population anchor (70 percent of the congressional district population resides in this local entity).

Since the 1936 elections, only one Democratic congressional candidate has won here: former Rep. Dan Glickman, first elected in 1976. He would serve nine consecutive terms before falling to defeat in 1994. Republican Todd Tiahrt unseated Rep. Glickman that year, and held the seat for an additional eight terms until departing for an unsuccessful US Senate run. In 2010, businessman Mike Pompeo won a crowded Republican primary to capture the seat. President Trump’s selection of Rep. Pompeo as CIA director opened the district for today’s special election.

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Minnesota Already in High Gear

By Jim Ellis

April 10, 2017 — We’re 19 months from the next election, yet already major Minnesota political moves are being made. Though state law does not limit its governors to eight years in office, incumbent Mark Dayton (D) has already announced he will not seek a third term next year. His retirement decision is setting political musical chairs in motion.

Additionally, the Democratic Farm Labor Party, the state’s dominant political apparatus, was shaken in November as President Trump came within just 45,000 votes of winning the state and, in fact, carried five of Minnesota’s eight congressional districts. Together, these events have put much of the state’s liberal political establishment on edge.

Last week we reported that six-term Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) formally announced his gubernatorial campaign and immediately took positive steps toward becoming a major contender. Walz arranged for fellow Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) to announce his support, which has strategic value. So does former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (D) expressing public support for Walz’s gubernatorial aspirations.

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