Monthly Archives: December 2019

The North Carolina Filings

All the best for a wonderful holiday season.
Ellis Insight daily updates will return on Jan. 3, 2020.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 24, 2019 — Candidate filing in the Tar Heel State closed Friday, and the North Carolina political contestants are now set for the March 3 Super Tuesday state primary. In addition to the presidential race, North Carolina voters will choose nominees for governor, US Senate, 13 congressional races, the state constitutional offices, and state legislature.

No surprises came from the presidential filings, though 38 individuals filed to run for the nation’s highest office. Twenty of the 38 are minor party candidates, however. Fifteen Democrats are running, including all of the major contenders. President Trump draws Republican primary opposition from former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and Illinois ex-congressman Joe Walsh.

Sen. Thom Tillis sees only minor Republican primary opposition and now is a cinch for re-nomination. Businessman Garland Tucker was expected to run a competitive primary race but decided to end his effort prior to the filing deadline. When Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) was drawn out of a winnable district in the court-mandated redistricting plan, he began considering entering the Senate race. The congressman, however, ultimately decided to wait a cycle and looks to run for Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) open seat in 2022.

Five Democrats filed for the Senate, but the nomination battle is realistically between former state senator Cal Cunningham, who is the party leadership favorite, and state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston). The eventual Democratic nominee will face Sen. Tillis in what promises to be a competitive general election in a state that has defeated more incumbents in the modern political era than any other place.

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Rep. Mark Meadows to Retire

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/ Asheville)

Dec. 23, 2019 — Four-term North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/ Asheville), the former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, surprisingly announced that he would not file for re-election this past Friday, and immediately rumors began circulating that he will soon accept a position in the Trump Administration.

Prospective candidates had less than two full days to decide if they wanted to enter the now open congressional race since he sent his announcement tweet on Wednesday night and candidate filing closed at noon Friday, Dec. 20. Six Democrats had already announced their candidacies, so the onus is on Republican potential contenders to make a quick decision and complete the filing process.

Stronger potential Democratic candidates only had that same small time window to make a decision, as well. Of those six already running no one has yet reported even raising $40,000.

The new redistricting plan changed North Carolina’s 11th District to the degree where just under a quarter of the constituency is new but no more Democratic even though the entire city of Asheville was placed back into the CD.

The 11th District sits in the far western tail of North Carolina, nestled among the bordering states of Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina. The new 11th District encompasses 16 whole counties along with a part of Rutherford County. The changes included adding all of Buncombe (Asheville) and Avery Counties, while annexing about half of Rutherford County. In exchange, Burke and Caldwell Counties are transferred to Rep. Virginia Foxx’s (R-Banner Elk) new 5th District.

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Impeachment Politics

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 20, 2019 — As the most recent polling from national research sources and in key states shows President Trump gaining political strength, the US House last night, on a virtual party line vote, approved the resolution to send the Articles of Impeachment to the US Senate for trial.

The vote was 229-198, with three Democrats voting against the articles and one Republican-turned-Independent, Michigan’s Justin Amash, supporting the measures. Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who represents the 2nd District of Hawaii, voted “Present”. Three members, two Republicans and one Democrat, were absent. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) will soon resign his seat due to pleading guilty to a federal campaign finance charge. Retiring Reps. Jose Serrano (D-NY) and John Shimkus (R-IL) were the others who did not vote. All present and voting Republicans opposed the impeachment measures.

Two of the three opposition Democrats were expected to vote no, Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN) who represents the strongest Trump district in the country to elect a Democrat to the House, and New Jersey’s Jeff Van Drew who is about to leave his party to join the Republicans. The third no vote came from freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), who represents the northern district in Maine that delivered its electoral vote to Trump in 2016 even though the state voted for Hillary Clinton. Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that choose to divide their electoral votes.

Two pollsters who had been showing national political support for the impeachment are now projecting a swing toward the opposite conclusion.

The CNN poll, conducted by their usual research partner, the SSRS firm, surveyed 1,005 adult respondents over the Dec. 12-15 period. A total of 45 percent of the respondents favored impeaching the president, while 47 percent said, “they don’t feel that way.” In contrast, their Nov. 21-24 survey found 50 percent favoring impeachment while 43 percent said they didn’t agree with the move. Previously, the CNN polls had reported positions consistently favoring impeachment since late September.

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Senate – Early Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 19, 2019 — With candidate filing deadlines for the early primaries either passed or soon upcoming, it is a good time to review the Senate forecasts for the March through May state nomination campaigns.

MARCH

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

• Alabama: A hot Republican primary will occur on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, featuring former US Attorney General and ex-senator Jeff Sessions attempting to regain the position he resigned to accept his appointment from President Trump.

The most recent polling suggests the primary will go to an April 14 run-off election, possibly between Sessions and retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), ex-state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 Senate nominee Roy Moore, along with state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) are also in the race and all but Mooney are still alive for the second run-off slot.

The eventual winner, assuming it is not Judge Moore who lost the special election after Sessions resigned, will be favored against Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election. Winning the Alabama race is critically important for Republicans to hold their majority.

• Arkansas: With the consensus Democratic candidate deciding to withdraw immediately after filing, the party is left without a challenger to first-term Sen. Tom Cotton (R). Though the state leadership could have chosen a new nominee in convention, the Arkansas Democratic chairman announced they are unable to field a candidate. Therefore, Sen. Cotton is a cinch for re-election facing only minor party opposition.

• Illinois: Sen. Dick Durbin (D) seeks a fifth term next year facing no primary competition on March 17, and only minor opponents for the fall campaign. In a full turnout presidential election year in a strongly Democratic state, Sen. Durbin is a sure winner in 2020.

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What The Van Drew Switch Means

By Jim Ellis

NJ-2 Freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew

Dec. 18, 2019 — We can expect an official announcement coming this week that freshman New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis Township) will become a Republican. Seeing most of his staff resign over this past weekend is the clearest indication that the speculation surrounding the congressman’s impending political move will in fact occur.

What does Van Drew’s switch mean for the House outlook in 2020? After the 2018 cycle House were finally tabulated, including the 2019 special elections to fill vacancies, the Republicans were tasked with converting a net 18 seats to obtain a bare one-vote majority.

Such a calculation has changed, however. The North Carolina court-mandated redistricting plan, the state’s third in this decade, will cost the Republicans at least two seats, meaning the GOP majority conversion number increases to 20. The Van Drew switch now reduces that number to 19, assuming each party holds their two vacant seats that will be decided in special elections prior to the regular 2020 general election.

Van Drew decided to switch parties due to his opposition to the Trump impeachment plans, but the underlying related reason points to some of his key county Democratic chairmen indicating they would support an intra-party challenge against him. New Jersey political parties are strong, and a Democratic chairman opposing one of his own incumbents would be taken seriously. The party endorsements in this state carry tangible benefits, including a particular advantageous ballot placement. An incumbent not receiving the party endorsement goes a long way to seeing such an office holder replaced.

The Republican move doesn’t solve all of Rep. Van Drew’s political problems, however. Upon hearing the party switching speculation, venture capitalist David Richter stated that not only is he remaining in the Republican primary to face Van Drew, but he is prepared to spend $1 million of his own money to win the nomination. On the Democratic side, college professor Brigid Callahan Harrison announced that she will run for the party nomination, and others are expected to soon follow her lead. It is clear that Rep. Van Drew will face both a competitive Republican primary and general election to secure a second term.

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