Monthly Archives: February 2018

Retirement Mode Returns

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 13, 2018 — After a respite from House retirements for a little more than a week, yet another announcement came on Friday.

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D), retiring. | Facebook

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D), retiring. | Facebook

Veteran Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/ Duluth) made public a decision not to seek a fourth term from his rural northeastern swing CD, MN-8, becoming the 54th US representative not to stand for re-election and the 17th Democrat in this category.

Nolan’s retirement decision makes what was already a toss-up 2018 election campaign even more interesting. In the last two political contests, the congressman barely defeated Republican businessman Stewart Mills, 48-47 percent and 50.1 – 49.6 percent, respectively in 2014 and ’16, making MN-8 one of the most competitive districts in the country during that time span.

The presidential vote gives us a clue into the district’s transition. During the Obama years, the Democratic nominee/president, won here with 53-44 and 52-46 percent margins in 2008 (against John McCain) and 2012 (opposite Mitt Romney). But, in 2016, President Trump crushed Hillary Clinton with a 54-39 percent victory spread.

The Nolan retirement move marks the second time he is leaving the House after serving three consecutive terms. Originally elected back in 1974 from the 6th District, which was then and is today a more rural/suburban seat anchored in the northern Minneapolis-St. Paul region, the congressman chose not to seek re-election in 1980. He was out of elective politics for 32 years, until he returned to Congress in 2012 from the previously solid farm-labor Democratic district in Minnesota’s upper northeastern sector.

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Ohio Candidates File to Run

state-of-ohio-mapBy Jim Ellis

Feb. 12, 2018 — The candidate filing deadline in Ohio passed last week — the fifth state to set its political contenders for the coming midterm election.

All of the expected gubernatorial candidates filed, meaning we will see a crowded Democratic field of eight candidates, led by former attorney general and recently resigned federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray. The remaining field features former congressman, Cleveland mayor, state legislator, and two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich; retired state Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill; state senator and former minority leader, Joe Schiavoni (D-Mahoning Valley); and Cincinnati ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich.

The Republicans are set for a gubernatorial one-on-one match between attorney general and former US senator, Mike DeWine, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. The general election is expected to feature a DeWine-Cordray battle, which will be a re-match of the 2010 attorney general’s campaign, a contest where DeWine unseated Cordray in a close campaign.

In the US Senate race, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) sees five Republicans battling for the right to challenge him in November. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) and investment banker Mike Gibbons are the two leading GOP candidates. Rep. Renacci is leaving his north-central congressional district to run for the Senate, switching to that race from the governor’s campaign after state Treasurer Josh Mandel decided not to run because of his wife’s newly diagnosed health condition. Since Mandel is ineligible to seek another term as treasurer, he will not be on the 2018 Ohio ballot.

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A Florida Polling Bonanza

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 9, 2018 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is on the cusp of becoming one of the top political campaigns in the country, but polling has been scarce … until yesterday.

Left: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Left: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) | Right: Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Three different pollsters released data from their recent Florida electorate surveys, each testing the impending contest between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R). Though the governor has not announced his candidacy, a loosely affiliated Super PAC has been spending heavily touting his accomplishments through various substantial statewide media buys. Since no other Republican candidate is even contemplating running, few doubt that the governor will make the race.

That being said, Florida Atlantic University, the University of North Florida, and Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy all released surveys this week. Though each arrived at different ballot test results, and all three have some methodological flaws, it is clear that the overall conclusion tells us that the Florida campaign is already in the toss-up realm.

The FAU poll (Feb. 1-4; 750 registered Florida voters; 375 on-line, 375 via automated telephone system) returns the most surprising result. According to their sampling universe, Gov. Scott has a 10-point, 44-34 percent lead over Sen. Nelson. This seems far-fetched, especially in comparison with the two succeeding polls taken during the same time frame. Additionally, the polling sample contains too many Independents, and is a bit low for both Democrats and Republicans. This makes the ballot test response even more curious and suspect.

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NJ-11: A Consensus Forming?

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 8, 2018 — House Appropriations Committee chairman and New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s (R-Morristown) surprise retirement announcement last week was initially met with cheers from the national Democratic establishment and local rank and file. As an open seat, they believed their conversion chances were growing even stronger. But, it appears that local Republican leaders are very quickly working to build support for a contender who may well become a consensus GOP candidate as soon as next week.

New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen  (R-Morristown)

New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown)

When Rep. Frelinghuysen decided not to seek a 13th term, state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) immediately indicated that he would become a congressional candidate. Almost as quickly, neighboring Assemblyman Anthony Bucco (R-Randolph) followed suit. But, Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Parsippany), who also represents the 26th Legislative District (as does Sen. Pennacchio), is now coming to the forefront as the man to beat in the GOP primary.

Upon Assemblyman Webber entering the race — who is a former New Jersey Republican Party chairman — Sen. Pennacchio quickly bowed out; Bucco also is sending signals that he, too, will soon exit. This leaves only attorney and first-time candidate Martin Hewitt remaining as an opponent for Webber.

Democrats were targeting Frelinghuysen, pointing to the fact that President Trump carried only the 11th District — originally drawn to be a decidedly Republican seat — by just a single percentage point, 49-48 percent. The district has been trending a bit more Democratic since it was first drawn. Compare the Trump numbers to both Mitt Romney and John McCain’s identical 52-47 percent showings. (The McCain numbers were re-configured into the territory comprising the current 11th CD, not the one existing in 2008. The previous seat was four points more Republican.)

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An Open Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 7, 2018 — Continuing our look at the 53 open seats, today we look at those in the Lean R & D categories. It is here where Democrats will have to score big if they are to claim the House majority.

2018-elections-open-seatsThe US Supreme Court declined to hear the Pennsylvania Republicans’ arguments earlier this week to move the live redistricting case to the federal level. To review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the current congressional map a political gerrymander, but without citing any election law statute violations. State Senate Republicans are refusing to provide the court with their requested data until the legislative bodies are informed about what is legally wrong with the current map.

In the meantime, the court has already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw a new plan, and moved the congressional candidate filing deadline from March 6 to March 20. Additionally, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is already saying he will veto the legislature’s map, so all of these developments suggest that a new, Democrat-friendly map will likely be in place before the 2018 elections.

In our overview of the current House open seat configuration, two of the Pennsylvania seats are either in the Lean D category (PA-7; Rep. Pat Meehan-R) or Lean R (PA-15; Rep. Charlie Dent). With a new map likely to collapse most, if not all, of the four open Republican seats, it is likely that both of the aforementioned districts will find themselves in the Democratic column after the next election.

Currently, the Lean Democrat column consists only of Republican seats. In addition to PA-7, and probably adding at least PA-15 post-redistricting, retiring GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) are leaving seats that are also trending toward the Democratic side of the political ledger.

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