Monthly Archives: August 2019

Succeeding Georgia’s Sen. Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R)

Aug. 30, 2019 — Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), first elected to the Senate in 2004 after spending six years in the US House and 18 years in the Georgia legislature, announced Wednesday that he will resign his seat at year’s end due to serious health problems.

The news stories have reported the details surrounding Isakson’s departure and his health status, but the succession situation will be the concentration of this update. The development means that both of Georgia’s Senate positions will be on the ballot in 2020. The two will run only semi-concurrently, however.

The first step is for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to appoint a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The governor will install an interim senator to serve from Jan. 1 until the appointed individual or another is elected. It is believed that the governor will name his choice quickly so that the person will have a transition time to work with Isakson and his staff before assuming the office.

While Sen. David Perdue stands for a second term in the regular cycle, meaning a May 19, 2020 primary followed by a July 21 run-off if no candidate secures majority support in the initial vote, the special election will follow a different format and slightly altered schedule.

The regular general election is, of course, Nov. 3, 2020, but Georgia is also one of the few states that holds a post-election run-off in case no one receives majority support. That run-off will be held Jan. 5, 2021, but it is unlikely that the Perdue race would advance through to such a process regardless of who wins the November vote.

The Isakson seat, however, will not follow the same calendar or system. Since this is a special election called to fill the balance of the current term, which will last until the beginning of 2023, a jungle primary is to be held concurrently with the November election, and the top two individuals, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the Jan. 5 run-off if no one receives a majority vote in the first election. For this seat, the odds of seeing a run-off election intensify because a crowded field is expected, thus making it more difficult for any one individual to secure majority support.

One person who will not be competing is former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, the former state House Minority Leader. Abrams indicated that she will not be a Senate candidate in either seat next year, preferring to remain focused in her role of working with voter registration and turnout organizations.

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Lt. Gov. Reeves Advances in Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R)

Aug. 29, 2019 — As expected, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves won Tuesday’s Republican gubernatorial run-off election, defeating former state Supreme Court judge Bill Waller Jr. by a 54-46 percent count. During the Aug. 6 primary, Reeves captured 49 percent of the vote, just one point shy of being nominated outright in the first election.

Lt. Gov. Reeves had the Republican establishment behind him, including public support from term-limited Gov. Phil Bryant and former governor and ex-Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour. Additionally, both he and Waller attempted to be viewed as the most conservative candidate in the race and ran as strong supporters of President Trump.

Therefore, a 54-46 percent win appears to be a slight under-performance, particularly when the drop-off turnout rate when compared to the primary election was only 15.3 percent. Tuesday’s turnout reached 324,353 voters, meaning that 58,727 fewer people cast ballots when compared to the early August Republican primary, which is a relatively small number.

Reeves now advances into the Nov. 5 general election where he will face the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jim Hood. Hood has been commonly referred to as the “most successful Democrat in the South” because he has won four consecutive statewide elections in Mississippi. He was easily nominated in this year’s original gubernatorial primary, winning 69 percent of the vote against seven opponents, but the total vote in the Democratic primary was less – 21,963 votes less — than even last night’s Republican run-off.

The lieutenant governor carried 65 of Mississippi’s 82 counties against Judge Waller, though five of the locality results denoted a winner garnering less than 51 percent of the vote. In one county, Quitman, Reeves’ victory margin was just one vote.

In what could be a rather ominous sign for the general election, Reeves did poorly in and around the state’s capital and largest city, Jackson, its county (Hinds) and the two suburban entities bordering it, Madison and Rankin counties. He lost all three of these counties, though the aggregate vote totals in Hinds were low.

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Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy to Resign

Wisconsin’s US 7th Congressional District

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 28, 2019 — Five-term Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) announced Monday that he is resigning from Congress effective Sept. 23. Rep. Duffy indicated his reason for leaving mid-term is that his wife and his expectant child, their ninth, has already been diagnosed with challenging health issues.

Therefore, his 7th Congressional District will go to special election once Gov. Tony Evers (D) sets the schedule. The congressional vote will likely coincide with the state’s spring election, where statewide and district judges are on the ballot and many localities use the dates to hold their own elections. The Wisconsin calendar pinpoints the Spring Primary for Feb. 18, 2020, while the Spring General election will run concurrently with the Wisconsin presidential primary on April 7.

The Badger State’s 7th CD occupies a full quarter of the state’s land area, beginning on the shores of Lake Superior and stretching to Buckhorn State Park close to Wisconsin’s center. The district covers a large land mass and is populated with small towns spread throughout the 26 counties that it covers or touches. WI-7 contains 21 whole counties and parts of five others. Its largest city, Wausau, which is Congressman Duffy’s hometown, has just under 40,000 people.

The district’s electorate now votes solidly Republican but, before Rep. Duffy was elected in 2010, this seat remained in Democratic hands for 41 consecutive years in the person of former Rep. David Obey (D) who first won in a 1969 special election and retired in the 2010 cycle. The district’s pre-Obey history, however, was solidly Republican. A member of the GOP had represented the seat for 82 of its first 96 years of existence.

Since the Duffy resignation was unexpected, no potential successors are being discussed, but that situation will quickly change.

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PA Rep. Lamb Draws Challenger

By Jim Ellis

Scott Timko (R) | Rep. Connor Lamb (D)

Aug. 2,7 2019 — Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh), who came to recent national political prominence when he upset a Republican special election nominee and then defeated an incumbent GOP House member in a newly created Allegheny County-anchored district in the regular cycle, has drawn a 2020 opponent for re-election.

Rep. Lamb, who campaigns as a moderate Democrat, defeated state Rep. Rick Saccone (R) by 755 votes in an early 2018 special election and knocked out then-Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) 56-44 percent last November, could face a novice Republican candidate in his 17th CD where Donald Trump slipped past Hillary Clinton, 49-47 percent.

Former Air Force pilot and local small business owner Scott Timko (R) declared his candidacy on Friday in a campaign that could become interesting. If Timko raises enough money to become competitive, the district voters appear to be much closer to he and Trump ideologically than they are to the national Democratic agenda.

Rep. Lamb keeps his distance from the national Democrats, but Timko is already attempting to push him leftward, pointing out that Lamb supports the national leadership and won’t even accept PAC contributions from private sector corporate employees who voluntarily support their company’s political action committee.

The 17th District was created in the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court’s early 2018 mandated congressional district re-draw. Just about three-quarters of the district’s population resides in Allegheny County, and covers the outer Pittsburgh suburbs from northeast of the city all the way around to the southwest. CD-17 also includes all of Beaver County that stretches to the Ohio border, and a sliver of Butler County.

As mentioned above, President Trump won a close victory within the 17th District confines, hence Lamb’s 2018 victory margin over Rep. Rothfus was more substantial than expected. Under the court’s redistricting plan, the new 17th contained 56 percent of the territory that Rothfus represented for three terms in his original 12th District, while Lamb had only 20 percent carry over from the 18th District to which he was elected shortly before the new map was created.

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Colorado Elector’s Case
Stirs the Electoral College Pot

By Jim Ellis

Colorado Elector Michael Baca / 9NEWS

Aug. 26, 2019 — Reports came out late last week that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Denver ruled in favor of a former Colorado Elector, Michael Baca, who filed a constitutional lawsuit against the state. In the 2016 Electoral College vote, the Colorado Secretary of State removed Baca from the delegation after he informed state authorities that he would not vote for Hillary Clinton when the Electoral College met.

Thirty states, including Colorado, have a statutory requirement that the official electors, in Colorado’s case nine individuals, cast their vote for the presidential candidate who carried the state. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton carried the Centennial State over Donald Trump, 48-43 percent.

Baca was coalescing with other electors around the country, the so-called “Hamilton Electors,” who thought they could convince enough members in Trump states to vote for another candidate in order to force him below the 270 minimum electoral vote threshold. In the election, Trump’s victory states awarded him 306 electoral votes. Places like Colorado, however, that went for Clinton, would do Trump no damage if its electors did not carry through with the voters’ expressed desire, illustrating one of several ways that the “Hamilton” strategy was fundamentally flawed.

After Baca’s removal, he quickly filed his lawsuit arguing that his constitutional rights were violated because the state has no authority to bind its electors. Baca lost at the federal district level but now has won a 2-1 appellate decision before a three-judge panel.

What happens now? The 10th Circuit is in conflict with a previous Washington state Supreme Court ruling that came to the opposite conclusion. Thus, it is likely that the US Supreme Court will be petitioned though the Washington ruling, because it comes from a state court, is a lesser factor in the federal domain.

The Colorado elector legal action, like the Compact Coalition that is attempting to convince states holding a majority of electoral votes to agree to have their electors vote for the national popular vote winner regardless of how the individual state voted, is designed to eliminate the Electoral College’s power and change the US voting system to a straight popular vote.

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