Monthly Archives: March 2018

New Poll Confirms Toss-Up in PA-18

By Jim Ellis

March 9, 2018 — The PA-18 special election will be decided on March 13, falling between the Texas primary this past Tuesday and the Illinois state primary on March 20. And, as the two candidates, Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) and Democratic former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb, head for the finish line, late polling suggests this contest is a pure turnout battle.

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

The current 18th District lies in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, encompassing a portion of Pittsburgh. The district contains parts of four different counties: Allegheny, Westmoreland, Washington, and Greene.

Though this Pennsylvania region is culturally Democratic, Republicans have moved the 18th District from marginal status to secure in the past few elections. President Trump easily won here in 2016, and resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) didn’t even draw an opponent in his past two campaigns. The congressman’s forced resignation over a sordid extra-marital affair led to this special election.

Under Pennsylvania election law and process, the political party leaders convened district conventions in November to choose their special election candidates. The Republicans went with state Rep. Saccone who, until the 18th District opened, had been a US Senate candidate. Democrats turned to 33-year-old former federal prosecutor Conor Lamb, whose grandfather is a previous state House Democratic Leader. His uncle, Michael Lamb, is the Pittsburgh City Controller.

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The Texas Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle’s first regular primary results are in the books, and the Texas electorate largely performed in its typical fashion last night.

Democrats were citing that their primary turnouts would be much higher this year in anticipation of a more competitive 2018 general election cycle; however, the party turnout was substantially better than in the 2014 midterm election (almost double the participation factor), it was still only two-thirds of their 2016 presidential total.

(To see full-size results graphic below, please click on image; partial results shown.)
325-2018-Texas-Primary-Results-graphicDespite the increase, just 6.8 percent of the state’s more than 15 million registered voters cast a ballot in this year’s Democrat primary. Adding the Republican vote, the primary registered only a 17 percent total turnout, again making the state one of the lowest in terms of party primary participation.

This year, 60 percent of those voting chose to cast a Republican ballot, down from the 71 percent in the last midterm and the 68 percent total from the 2016 presidential race. But, in the 17 Republican congressional districts where both sides fielded contested primaries, in only one CD, Rep. Will Hurd’s 23rd District, did more Democrats vote than Republicans.

As expected, both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) easily captured their party nominations for the US Senate campaign. Sen. Cruz recorded an 85.3 percent vote total among Republicans, while 61.8 percent of Democrats chose Rep. O’Rourke. Since both men exceeded the 50 percent plus one vote majority figure, each advances to the general election.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott racked up a 90.4 percent win in the GOP primary, while Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (42.9 percent) and businessman Andrew White (27.4 percent) must now duel in a May 22 run-off election to decide the Democrat nomination.

In the eight open congressional races, three featured outright winners. In retiring Rep. Sam Johnson’s (R-Plano) north Texas 3rd District, state Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), as expected, easily captured the Republican nomination (84.7 percent) and he will go onto win the general election. In Rep. O’Rourke’s El Paso-anchored 16th District, the El Paso County Judge (Executive), Veronica Escobar, recorded a 61.4 percent win over five opponents and will easily win the succeeding general election. In Houston, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), also as expected, notched a 63.2 percent win against six Democratic opponents, and she will replace retiring Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) in the 29th CD.

Turning to Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Atascocita) open district, a surprise occurred in the GOP primary. Though she spent over $5 million of her own money, GOP activist Kathaleen Wall failed to qualify for the run-off by a slight 145-vote margin. State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) placed first with 33 percent and will face retired Naval officer Dan Crenshaw (27.4 percent) in the May 22 Republican run-off. The winner will have the inside track toward replacing the retiring seven-term incumbent in the general election.

A run-off will occur in retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Dallas) 5th District. State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) advances to the run-off against political fundraiser Bunni Pounds. Gooden’s advantage in the primary vote was 29-22 percent over Pounds. Former Terrell City Councilman Dan Wood was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Tarrant County Tax Assessor and former congressional chief of staff Ron Wright came within five percentage points of clinching the Republican nomination in retiring Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Ennis) north Texas’ 6th District. He becomes a heavy favorite to dispatch airline pilot and Afghanistan War veteran Jake Ellzey (21.7 percent) in the run-off election. Wright will likely succeed the retiring 17-term congressman.

In the 18-candidate 21st District Republican primary to succeed veteran Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), former Ted Cruz chief of staff Chip Roy placed first (27 percent), and will face frequent candidate Matt McCall (17 percent) in the run-off election. McCall, who has previously challenged Rep. Smith, may have benefited from name confusion since this seat is adjacent to Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Austin) 10th District. Roy now becomes the favorite to win the run-off and the general election to follow the retiring incumbent.

Turning to the Corpus Christi area, former Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun (36.1 percent) placed a close first in the Republican primary over former Victoria County Republican Party chairman Michael Cloud (34.9 percent), and the two will battle again in late May. The likely Republican nominee will replace retiring Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi).

Looking at the three races that are expected to be competitive in the general election, Rep. Hurd was easily re-nominated (80.3 percent), while the Democrats must go to a run-off. Former US Trade official Gina Ortiz Jones ran strongly in the Democratic primary (41.3 percent), but must face former San Antonio City Council candidate Rick Trevino (17.5 percent) on May 22. The Democrat establishment’s favored candidate, attorney Jay Huling’s (15 percent), failed to qualify. The succeeding general election here will be competitive in what is the state’s lone swing district.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) was easily re-nominated with 76.1 percent while attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (29.3 percent) and author Laura Moser (24.3 percent) advance to a run-off.

In Dallas, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) won a 79.3 percent re-nomination victory, while ex-NFL player Colin Allred (38.5 percent) and former US Agriculture Department official Lillian Salerno (18.3 percent) will battle in the May 22 Democrat run-off election.

None of the 28 House incumbents seeking re-election were forced into a run-off. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas), running for what she says will be her last term, fared the worst but still scored a 63.6 percent re-nomination victory over two opponents.

The Swap in California

By Jim Ellis

March 7, 2018 — The California candidate filing deadline is Friday, and we are beginning to see some complicated political moves crystallize as we get closer to final decision time.

California candidate T.J. Cox (D)

California candidate T.J. Cox (D)

In the state’s Central Valley, a major Democratic shake-up is unfolding. On Sunday, Emilio Huerta, the 2016 Democratic nominee against Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) in California’s 21st Congressional District, announced that he is dropping his 2018 bid. The surprise announcement appears linked to Democratic leaders wanting to move 10th District candidate T.J. Cox (D) south so he can become Rep. Valadao’s general election opponent.

Months ago, Cox, a businessman and investment fund founder, announced his candidacy against Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto) in CA-10. Democrat leaders were positive about his candidacy at the time because they were reportedly less than satisfied with two-time nominee Michael Eggman, a wealthy farmer who lost to Denham in both 2014 (56-44 percent) and 2016 (52-48 percent).

As is the case in many districts around the country, large numbers of Democrat aspirants began declaring their candidacies for the 10th District race. Last year, it appeared the party establishment was lining up behind Cox, especially when Eggman announced that he would not run for a third time. In late January, however, Eggman suddenly changed his mind, did an about-face, and declared his congressional candidacy once again. Knowing that the former nominee’s name ID would likely land him the second qualifying position in the June 5 jungle primary because a total of seven Democrats were headed toward securing positions on the ballot, the party leaders began scrambling to fortify a better candidate lineup.

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Primary Season Begins Today

By Jim Ellis

texas-primary-election-2018March 6, 2018 — The 2018 primaries begin today, as Texans will complete their voting process for the first-in-the-nation midterm primary.

The Lone Star State political card features the US Senate race, a full compliment of statewide races, including Gov. Greg Abbott (R) beginning his campaign for re-election, along with voters choosing nominees in the 36 US House seats. The delegation’s eight open seats will attract the most attention. Should candidates not receive majority support, run-off elections between the top two finishers in each party will subsequently be held on May 22.

Both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) are expected to easily win their respective nominations. This will officially begin the nation’s first US Senate general election cycle. Rep. O’Rourke will have the benefit of commanding strong financial resources — he had just under $5 million in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period — because so many national liberal donors are contributing against Sen. Cruz.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary features Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez opposing businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D). Neither have major resources, and the winner draws Gov. Abbott who could top $100 million in spending. The governor is viewed as a safe bet for re-election.

In the 36 House races, 28 incumbents are seeking re-election; 15 of them (a dozen Republicans and three Democrats) have primary opposition, but all are expected to easily win re-nomination.

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Cramer Up Against Heitkamp in
North Dakota Senate Polling

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) | Facebook

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) | Facebook

March 5, 2018 — A new Tarrance Group poll (Feb. 18-20; 500 likely North Dakota registered voters) conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee finds at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) taking an early lead over first-term Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), 49-44 percent, a split just beyond the polling margin of error.

The Tarrance poll comes on the heels of previously released data from Gravis Marketing (Feb. 21-24; 385 North Dakota voters interviewed online) that gives Sen. Heitkamp a 43-40 percent edge, but this survey was conducted wholly online. Though the Tarrance poll was in the field before the Gravis study, the latter data was first to enter the public domain.

North Dakota state law prohibits vendors from placing automated telephone calls, which is Gravis’ usual method of conducting their surveys. Additionally, since the state has no voter registration requirement or system, the likely voter screen is a bit more difficult to define. Both of these elements would affect the reliability factor, and particularly so for the Gravis results.

The Tarrance data also detected a retrogression in Sen. Heitkamp’s favorability rating. Though still strong, her positive ratio is a net 10 points below what was determined in the organization’s October poll. The February data records the senator with a strong 54:38 percent positive to negative index, but that is below the 60:34 percent rating she received in October. Rep. Cramer posted a slightly better 53:29 percent positive ratio. He was not tested in the October poll.

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