Monthly Archives: November 2018

Sinema Wins in Arizona; A Florida Update

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix)

Nov. 14, 2018 — Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) was projected as the winner of the open Arizona Senate race Monday afternoon as the 460,000-plus post-election vote count continued laboriously forward.

With Sinema racking up a 130,000-plus vote margin from Maricopa and Pima counties, it was too much for Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) to overcome in the remainder of the state where the she had been able to build a 64,000-vote advantage.

Though McSally conceded this Senate seat, it is possible that she could still end up serving there soon. Appointed Sen. Jon Kyl (R) has said he planned to remain just through the end of this congressional year. Should he resign early next year, McSally — since she will be exiting the House at the end of the current term — would have to be considered a prime appointment prospect to serve until the next general election. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Kyl on an interim basis when Sen. John McCain (R) passed away earlier in the year.

Should this happen, McSally, as the appointed incumbent, would be able to run again in 2020. Since Sen. McCain was re-elected in 2016, the seat must come before the voters in a 2020 special election with the winner serving the balance of the term. The 2020 victor would then be able to seek the full six-year term in 2022.

Should McSally be appointed, it could conceivably mean that she would run for the Senate in three consecutive election cycles. Just completing her unsuccessful 2018 campaign, and assuming she would run in the 2020 special election, the seat would again be contested in 2022, at which point she could finally run for the six-year term. But, all of this is pure speculation at this very early juncture.

The Sinema victory means the Democrats converted the two most vulnerable Republican seats: Arizona as well as Nevada, where Rep. Jacky Rosen (D) unseated GOP Sen. Dean Heller. Grabbing those two seats was absolutely necessary if the Dems were going to challenge for the majority. That didn’t play out, however, as the Democrats dropped at least three of their own seats (and possibly a fourth if Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) miniscule lead holds in Florida). That means the GOP will net gain at least one seat in the Senate and possibly two despite the loss of both key defense seats.

Turning to Florida, the three close statewide races: senator, governor, and agriculture commissioner, will all go to official recounts. Under Florida election law, election totals separated by less than one-half a percentage point are subject to an automatic recount. Republicans lead two of the three races, obviously all with very small margins.

Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was 12,562 votes at the time the recount was ordered. This from a total vote more that 8.183 million ballots cast. Former Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) sees a slightly larger lead over Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D), some 33,684 votes. But, the closest of all is the ag commissioner campaign with Democrat Nikki Fried having a statewide edge over Republican Matt Caldwell of just 5,326 votes.

The 67 counties have until Thursday at 3 pm to complete their machine recount. Under Florida law, if the machine recounts drop any race below one-quarter of a percent between the two candidates, then a hand recount will begin.

The Broward County controversy will continue. Over 24,000 ballots did not record votes in the Senate race, which Democrats claim is either the result of a faulty ballot design or that marked ballots were not being properly read in the machines. I must point out that none of the other 66 counties in the state of Florida are reporting such a problem.

We can expect this process to drag on for a long period of time, and will undoubtedly see a multitude of lawsuits being filed from each side.

More House Calls

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 13, 2018 — While two key Senate races in Florida and Arizona as well as the Georgia governor’s campaign remain languishing in a situation rife with uncounted votes and complaints about election officials, progress is being made with outstanding House races.

California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (CA-480

Two of the nine congressional races were called over the weekend, one for each party. Looking at the trends in the remaining seven, it appears the Democrats’ final conversion number may now approach 40.

In California, 15-term Rep. Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has gone down to defeat at the hands of businessman Harley Rouda (D). Though thousands of votes remain to be counted, a projection has been made in Rouda’s favor. Three more California races still remain uncalled, however, and a final result could still consume days if not weeks.

Rep. Rohrabacher fell into trouble in what should be a strong Republican district with stories about how the congressman was making favorable statements toward Russian president Vladimir Putin and being close to some Russian officials. The FBI warned Rohrabacher that the Kremlin had even assigned him a code name. Republicans, concerned about his actions, curtailed his role as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

Rohrabacher signaled his political trouble when he scored only 30.3 percent of the vote in the state’s jungle primary, even though he finished first in a pool of 16 candidates. Rouda, placing second by just 125 votes, which allowed him to advance into the general election, was able to overwhelm the congressman in campaign funding. The Democrat’s campaign spent over $7 million, including $2 million from his personal finances, as compared to about $2.5 million for Rohrabacher.

Turning to North Carolina, Baptist former pastor Mark Harris (R) has successfully held the open 9th District Republican seat, as he defeated businessman Dan McCready (D). Harris has been projected to win with an approximately 2,000-vote margin (49.4 – 48.8 percent), and overcame a better than 1:2 ratio in campaign spending.

It appears McCready will spend close to, or over, $5 million in his losing effort as compared to Harris spending in the $2 million range. In the Republican primary, Harris unseated three-term Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), but he managed to hold what became a competitive seat in the general election.

The 9th District begins in the Charlotte metropolitan area and then stretches along the South Carolina border all the way to the Fayetteville suburbs. McCready, a business owner, was one of the Democratic candidates saying he would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker, even going so far as to making the statement in his campaign ads.

The remaining uncalled offices are:

CA-10 (Rep. Jeff Denham (R) now trailing Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder)
CA-39 (former Assemblywoman Young Kim (R) leading retired Naval officer and lottery winner Gil Cisneros (D)
CA-45 (Rep. Mimi Walters (R) leading Democratic law professor Katie Porter)
GA-7 (Rep. Rob Woodall (R) leading former state legislative committee staff director Caroyln Bourdeaux (D)
ME-2 (Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) vs. Democratic state Rep. Jared Golden – see NOTE below)
NJ-3 (Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) trailing former National Security Council official Andy Kim (D)
UT-4 (Rep. Mia Love (R) trailing Democratic Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams)

All of these races have a greater number of outstanding and uncounted ballots than the current margins, and thus each could still turnaround.

NOTE: In the Maine district, it appears that Rep. Poliquin will likely finish ahead of Golden but will not attain majority support. In previous years, this would have elected Poliquin, as it would in almost every other state, but Maine’s new ranked voting instant run-off system will likely flip the result to Golden. Therefore, we can expect continued counting and much legal wrangling to occur until this final result is recorded.

Election Day Recounts and Lawsuits

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 9, 2018 — Political overtime action is occurring in three states as very close elections for US Senate and governor still appear to be a long way from concluding.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has dwindled to just over 15,000 votes as more and more mail ballots are counted. Now further controversy has arisen in Broward County, which is reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election that required 32 days and a US Supreme Court ruling to decide.

In this current instance, people are calling into question why there were 24,000-plus fewer votes cast in the US Senate race, which led the Florida ticket, than the other contests on the Broward County ballot. Democrats are suggesting the ballot design that placed the office on the lower left side is the a primary reason for the large drop-off and argue that the counting machines are not detecting marks made on individual ballots. Broward County election officials say they can only count what the machine reads.

Gov. Scott held a news availability last night to accuse the Democrats of attempting to “steal the election.” He is suing elections supervisors in Broward and Palm Beach County over their failure to meet certain legal deadlines in ballot counting and reporting and, in his capacity as governor, is ordering the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the situation.

The vote count change is also affecting the governor and commissioner of agriculture elections as well as the US Senate contest. All three have dropped within the half-percentage point margin that automatically triggers a recount. It is likely that all three contests will be recounted once a final vote is determined. Therefore, we can expect weeks of legal and administrative wrangling before these highly important elections are decided.

In Arizona, similar controversy is arising. With more than 450,000 ballots remaining to count in the US Senate race, local Republican county officers from Maricopa, Apache, Navajo, and Yuma counties are suing election officials in Maricopa, Pima, and Coconino counties over their process of “curing” absentee or mail ballots where the envelope signature appears different than what is on file. In such an instance, the election officials attempt to contact the individual to verify that he or she did cast the ballot.

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More Election Eve Updates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 8, 2018 — According to a CBS News report quoting University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who runs the United States Election Project, more than 113 million people voted in the 2018 midterm election, the first time turnout exceed the 100 million mark.

With voter participation approaching a majority of the eligible voting population for the first time since 1966, we see a continued increase in voter participation. The 2018 midterm is among the three top off-year elections with the highest turnout rate in the past 118 years. This high voting trend has largely been in effect since the 2000 election, though the 2014 midterm proved an exception with very low turnout.

Carrying through from media projections of uncalled races, it appears the Democrats will see a net gain of 31 seats, not counting the California races that still have millions of votes to tabulate. An incumbent race featuring New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) appears to be flipping back and forth in final counting.

The Golden State features an election system where at least 75 percent of the people vote through the mail and they allow ballots to be postmarked on Election Day. Therefore, it will be a couple of full weeks before we know the final totals in what appears to be five congressional contests that are still undecided, all in current Republican seats. It is probable that the Democrats will win at least two of the five and possibly even all of them.

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The (Mostly) Final Election Results

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2018
— The long 2018 midterm election cycle drew to a close last night and, as predicted, split government will return to Capitol Hill. Republicans held the Senate and saw their majority grow as Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Claire McCaskill (MO) 2018-mid-term-election-results-graphicfell to Republican challengers. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) likely will be forced into a recount to see if his just-under 40,000 vote advantage will be enough to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D).

The Montana race is undecided as Sen. Jon Tester (D) is on the precipice of losing but the outstanding vote suggests he could survive by a very small margin. The razor-thin Arizona race is a must-hold for the GOP. Democrat Jacky Rosen defeated Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (D) fought back a tough challenge from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R).

If all of these follow their current trends, Republicans will gain a net of four seats and increase their majority margin to 55-45. If Montana and Arizona go Democratic, the division would slip to 53R-47D. In any event, it appears likely that the Republicans will gain two to four seats.

The new Senate will maintain their new majority split once the Nov. 27 run-off election is held and decided in Mississippi. In that new secondary election, appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) will face former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). Sen. Hyde-Smith placed first in the Nov. 6 preliminary vote and ended with 41.5 percent of the vote, not close to secure the majority support that would have elected her outright and just ahead of Espy’s 40.6 percent. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) was third with 16.4 percent, likely denying Hyde-Smith the opportunity to win in the first round. He is eliminated from further competition.

As predicted, the House did flip to the Democrats and leadership elections will soon be held to determine who will replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). It is perceived that California’s Nancy Pelosi will again become the speaker after serving from 2007-11 and losing the post when the Republicans secured the majority in the 2010 election.

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