Monthly Archives: December 2019

House Retirement No. 36

Four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced that he will not seek re-election next year.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 10, 2019 — The 36th US House seat to come open lies in Raleigh, North Carolina, as four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced late Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. He is in the rare situation of being forced from his position because of an unfavorable redistricting draw during the fifth election of the political decade.

We can expect to see a number of such redistricting-related instances occur throughout the country in the next election cycle, but to be still fighting redistricting legal battles, as they are in North Carolina, with a new census and apportionment directly upon us is unprecedented.

Rep. Holding says he is now not seeking re-election because of what he describes as the “terrible” manner in which the boundaries of his 2nd District have been reconstructed. The 2nd moves from a 53-44 percent Trump district to one that voted 60-36 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Though the Republican legislators reconfigured the map, the partisan division will increase the Democratic number by at least two seats, which directly affects the Raleigh and Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. The court directive forced a criterion change upon the legislature, which responded with the new map.

The post-2020 election delegation will likely feature an 8R-5D split, and Democrats sued arguing they should have more in a state whose electorate typically splits close to 50/50. The three-judge panel that originally struck down the previous GOP map unanimously approved this latest mapping effort, so the new plan will stand for the 2020 elections.

This new congressional map significantly changes the North Carolina political picture. The Holding seat is now a Democratic primary fight, and the early leader is former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who challenged Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2016 and held him to a hard fought 51-45 percent victory.

The other Republican incumbent left without a political home is three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), and it is clear he will not seek re-election in the new 6th District. He is reportedly weighing his options for other political opportunities. Rep. Walker averaged 58.1 percent of the vote in his three congressional victories while the newly constructed NC-6 constituency supported Hillary in a 59-38 percent result.

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Georgia Rep. Tom Graves to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome) to retire

Dec. 9, 2019 — It appears we have again entered into a potentially sustained period of multiple retirement announcements, which is not particularly surprising, since members are beginning to face candidate filing deadlines in their individual states.

This week has been active. After Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) pled in federal court to a campaign finance violation and will soon resign, and Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) announced Wednesday that he won’ seek another term, six-term Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome) followed suit in releasing his social media message late last week declaring that the current term will be his last.

Though still young, Graves indicated to his local media that the reason for his retirement is to explore new avenues with his family now that his offspring have reached adulthood. He was in no political danger, having won his last election with 76 percent of the vote in a district that went 75-22 percent for President Trump in 2016.

The Graves decision moves the open-seat count to 35, with 24 coming from the Republican side of the aisle versus only 11 from the majority Democrats.

Georgia’s 14th District sits in the far northwest corner of the state, encompassing the relatively narrow area that borders both Tennessee and Alabama. The seat contains 11 counties and part of another, with the population relatively evenly spread throughout small towns and rural areas. The city of Rome, with a population of just over 36,000 people, is the district’s largest municipality, though Paulding County with just under 160,000 residents spread through small towns west of Marietta is the district’s most sizable population entity.

Since GA-14 has such a strong Republican voting history, the battle to replace Rep. Graves will occur in the GOP primary. We can expect a crowded field to soon form. The primary will assuredly yield the top two finishers advancing to a run-off, because it is a virtual certainty that no one will reach majority support in the first vote.

The state legislative district overlay suggests that the state Senate may produce the most viable contenders. The congressional district occupies five state Senate seats, all Republican, and parts of 15 state House districts, just one of which a Democrat represents. In the latter districts, no state House seat exceeds even 10 percent of the congressional district constituency.

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Kelly Loeffler In; Rep. Heck Out

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to the U.S. Senate to succeed retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is leaving office at the end of the year due to health issues.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 6, 2019 — As expected, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced that businesswoman Kelly Loeffler is his choice to succeed Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) when Isakson resigns at the end of the year due to health problems.

Also, in Washington state, four-term Rep. Denny Heck (D-Olympia) announced that he will not seek re-election. In a released statement, while criticizing President Trump, Heck indicated that the ongoing investigations of which he has been a part as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has caused him to become weary.

Georgia Senate

Loeffler’s pick is somewhat controversial among Republicans since President Trump and many state conservative leaders were publicly backing Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) for the seat. Additionally, the congressman has hinted in media interviews that running against the appointed senator in the 2020 special election to fill the balance of the term is not out of the realm of possibility.

Conservatives are expressing doubt about Loeffler, citing her past donations to certain Democratic candidates, support for Planned Parenthood, and weakness, from their perspective, on other social issues. For her part, Loeffler is pledging full support to passing the Trump agenda and voting to approve additional federal judges and Trump Administration appointments.

Loeffler will serve throughout 2020 and be eligible to compete in the special election to serve the final two years of Sen. Isakson’s term. The governor has scheduled a jungle primary to run concurrently with the 2020 general election. If no candidate receives majority support on Nov. 3, then the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election on Jan. 5. Should the general election go badly for Senate Republicans, it’s possible that the Georgia run-off could determine majority control.

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Is Sen. Kamala Harris Protecting
Her California Senate Seat?

By Jim Ellis

Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris of California

Dec. 5, 2019 — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) became the first of what one might consider the top-tier candidates to end her presidential effort, but the announcement timing on Tuesday likely has more to do with her 2022 Senate race than the presidential contest.

The California candidate filing deadline is tomorrow, so Sen. Harris deciding to end her presidential effort means she won’t be on the Golden State presidential primary ballot, and thus avoids an embarrassing loss within her own constituency. Recent polling was forecasting her in the single-digit range even in California.

Obviously, losing any race in one’s home state reveals political weakness, and though she is virtually invulnerable against a Republican in the 2022 general election, the same might not be true if her opponent were a strong Democrat.

Under the California election system that features the jungle primary concept, variations of which are also seen in Washington state and Louisiana, members of the same party can advance into the general election. Florida voters will have the opportunity of adopting that jungle primary concept via ballot initiative next year.

Because California and Washington hold regular primaries before the general election, a pair of candidates always advance irrespective of percentages attained. Conversely, Louisiana holds one election concurrent with the general, meaning a candidate exceeding 50 percent is elected outright; otherwise the top two finishers advance into a December run-off election.

In the California 2022 Senate race, for example, two candidates will move into the general election from their March or June primary (California has continually alternated their primary election dates between the two months, depending upon the political situation at the time the legislature acted) so long as more than one candidate files. Thus, a strong Democrat — and California has many such individuals — could challenge Sen. Harris, draw a relatively meager percentage in the primary while finishing second, and then rally to make a serious general election challenge against her.

Other previous presidential candidates have often found the political going much tougher than expected when returning home to seek re-election after engaging in the national contest, and it remains to be seen if Sen. Harris will find her road to re-election any bumpier.

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House 2020 Overview

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 3, 2019 — Now that two states have already completed their congressional candidate filing (Alabama and Arkansas) and five more are scheduled for December including Illinois, which closed yesterday, it is time to begin to ascertain where US House politics might reasonably stand right now.

California (Dec. 6), Texas (Dec. 9), Ohio (Dec. 11), and North Carolina (Dec. 20 – on hold due to court order), are the other states with candidate deadlines this month. At the end of December, the seven filed states including North Carolina, would account for 129 congressional district candidate slates.

Currently, the party division yields four vacant House seats — two from each party. Of the 431 seats with representation, Democrats hold 233 and Republicans have 197, along with one Independent — Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/ Grand Rapids), who left the Republican Party earlier this year.

Comparing the current ratings for each district against where the seats stood a year before the 2018 election finds that 82 political situations have changed ratings with most moving away from the Republican column and toward the Democrats, but not in all cases.

Currently, 75 districts fall into either the Toss-up, Lean Democrat, or Lean Republican categories. This assumes that the four vacancies — CA-25 (Katie Hill-D), MD-7 (Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R) — all remain with their current party in upcoming special elections.

Adding another assumption concerning the House outlook involves the newly adopted court-ordered North Carolina congressional map, the third of this decade. On its surface, these latest district boundaries would net the Democrats at least two seats, those that Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) currently represent.

Both parties are lodging new legal challenges to the map, and the state’s Dec. 20 candidate filing deadline is on hold for the US House candidates until the legal situation is resolved. For the purposes of this analysis, the new North Carolina map is inserted into the national overlay, thus increasing the Democratic conference by two seats.

Of the 75 lean and toss-up seats, 36 are currently in the Democratic column and 38 lie in Republican hands. The remaining seat belongs to Independent Rep. Amash. Looking at how the seats might break right now, it appears that 33 are rated as Lean Democratic with 30 categorized as Lean Republican. The remaining dozen, including the Amash seat, are considered toss-ups.

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