Monthly Archives: May 2021

The House Opens – Part II

By Jim Ellis

May 10, 2021 — In our second of the two-part series on the House open seats, today we analyze the eight Republican open seats from six states.

Two of the House’s five vacancies are currently Republican held and will be filled in special elections conducted from late June through Nov. 2. The six regular cycle Republican openings result from retirement decisions (2), and members seeking a different office (4).


AL-5 – Rep. Mo Brooks – running for Senate

Rep. Brooks (R-Huntsville), with former President Trump’s endorsement (which has proven extremely strong in other Republican primaries), is running for the Senate. Now that we know Alabama is not losing a seat in reapportionment, the open 5th District will elect a new member, and the 2022 Republican primary becomes the key focus.

Ex-President Trump carried this district in November with a 63-36 percent victory margin. Madison County Commission chairman Dale Strong (R) looks like the strongest candidate making an early announcement. Madison County encompasses half of the 5th District.


GA-10 – Rep. Jody Hice – running for secretary of state

In late March, Rep. Hice (R-Greensboro) announced that he will challenge Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the 2022 Republican primary. Raffensperger has come under heavy attack for his handling of the 2020 election, which makes him very vulnerable in a Republican primary.

As with all 14 of Georgia’s congressional districts, the 10th will be re-drawn as part of redistricting, but the GOP is in control of the process so we can count on this seat remaining safely Republican. We can expect a crowded GOP primary followed by a two-person runoff. The eventual Republican nominee then becomes a prohibitive favorite to the hold the seat in the 2022 general election.


NY-1 – Rep. Lee Zeldin – running for governor

With Rep. Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the governor’s race, the open eastern Long Island 1st District will likely host a competitive general election campaign. Already, one of the 2020 Democratic candidates, Suffolk County legislator Bridget Fleming, has announced her candidacy for the open seat. Nancy Goroff, the 2020 Democratic nominee who lost a 56-44 percent race to Rep. Zeldin, confirms that she is considering returning for a second campaign. We can expect NY-1 to be a hotly contested open seat next year and will be at least a moderate Democratic conversion opportunity race.


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The House Opens – Part I

By Jim Ellis

May 7, 2021 — With the number of House open and vacant seats continuing to grow, today we open a two-part series to update the status of each and begin to project where the most competitive incumbent-less districts might lie in 2022.

Adding the most recent retirement announcements or declarations for a different office, we see 16 districts that will introduce freshman members from their next election, eight from the Democratic side and an equal number of Republican seats. Of the 16, five are vacant and in special election cycles.

Today, we look at the Democratic open seats and tomorrow, the Republicans. The eight Democratic seats come from six states with another potential candidacy announcement coming shortly, at least based upon reading the Florida political tea leaves in association with this week’s gubernatorial race declaration from Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL).

Three of the five vacancies are on the Democratic side and will be filled in elections conducted from June 1 through Jan. 11 of next year. The other five Democratic openings result from retirement decisions (3) and members seeking a different office (2) with an additional open seat announcement apparently coming imminently in Florida as all indications suggest that Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) will soon announce her gubernatorial bid.


AZ-2 – Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick – retirement

Rep. Kirkpatrick had represented the 1st District for three non-consecutive terms beginning in 2009. She then ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2016 and returned in 2018 with a victory in the 2nd District. She was re-elected in 2020 with 55 percent of the vote. In March, Kirkpatrick announced that she would retire at the conclusion of the current Congress.

The reapportionment picture drastically changes the 2nd District political outlook. Originally, Arizona was projected to gain a seat, but did not once the official population figures were announced. Therefore, the Tucson anchored CD-2, expected to significantly change, is likely to remain closer to its current configuration.

If so, then the re-draw process will likely keep the 2nd in the Democratic column. The two leading early contenders to replace Rep. Kirkpatrick are state representative and surgeon Randy Friese (D-Tucson) and state Sen. Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson).

• President Biden carried the 2nd with a 54-44 percent margin.


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Crist Announces for Governor

Florida Rep. Charlie Crist

By Jim Ellis

May 6, 2021 — US representative and former Florida governor, Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), announced this week that he will again run for the state’s top elected post, which appears to be influencing an interesting series of political maneuvers.

His candidacy declaration video, which included attacking incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as “a governor that’s only focused on his future and not yours” – an interesting line of attack for a person who has run 11 times for six different offices under three political party designations over a span of 28 years – spurred the Republican governor and potential Democratic opponents to respond.

Answering a reporter’s question about Crist’s candidacy, Gov. DeSantis retorted as noted in the Tampa Bay Times, “which party is he going to run under? Do we even know for sure? He has run as a Republican, lost; independent, lost; Democrat lost. But now I see he’s voting with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time, he could probably give it a run for the Green Party in San Francisco,” the governor concluded.

State Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D) made several statements indicating that she is highly likely to enter the governor’s race but would do so at a still unspecified time. She also said that Rep. Crist should remain in Congress, “where his voice is needed.”

US Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando), another potential gubernatorial candidate, also released her own video message this week extolling her career and ideals. The video did not specify that she would declare for governor since her congressional campaign committee paid for the production. The release timing, however, suggests that her intention is to eventually enter the governor’s race.

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TX-6: Analyzing a Mild Upset

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2021 — With many observers in and out of Texas conceding that Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez had a chance to finish first in Saturday’s special jungle primary to begin the process of replacing the late Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington), it came as at least a mild surprise to see her failing to even qualify for the secondary election. The final result yielded two Republicans advancing from the huge field of 23 candidates.

Finishing first was Susan Wright (R), the late congressman’s widow, which was not a particularly surprising result as virtually every analyst and available polling data conceded her one of the two runoff positions.

The race got particularly nasty, however, towards the end. An anonymous robocall – one without a legal disclaimer – flooded the district a day before the election claiming Ms. Wright murdered her husband to redeem a $1 million insurance policy. The call text said she deliberately contracted COVID in order to intentionally infect her husband. Rep. Wright died in early February after a long battle with cancer and COVID. Ms. Wright’s attorneys have referred the matter to the FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Tarrant County District Attorney.

Freshman state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) edged Sanchez for second place; Ellzey ran against Ron Wright when the congressional seat was last open in 2018 and forced him into a runoff.

For more than a generation, the 6th District was a Republican bastion. Rep. Joe Barton (R), Rep. Wright’s predecessor and former boss when the latter man served as a congressional district office director, held four variations of the 6th over a long 34-year congressional career. The electorate began to turn when Rep. Wright won two underwhelming victories and Democrats significantly closed the partisan gap at the presidential level (’20, Trump 51-48 percent; ’16, Trump 54-42 percent).

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Add IL-17 to the List of Vacancies

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2021 — Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), just emerging from her closest re-election victory in November – a 52-48 percent win over Republican Esther Joy King – surprisingly announced Friday that she will not seek re-election to a sixth term next year. Bustos was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair for the 2020 cycle and appeared positioned for further leadership or strong committee positions in the future.

Her absence in the next cycle from a state that is losing a congressional district means her politically marginal western Illinois CD (Trump ’20, 50-48 percent; Trump ’16, 47.4 – 46.7 percent) that stretches throughout the Iowa border region and is anchored in the area known as the Quad Cities, could drastically change in the next redistricting.

For her part, King immediately declared her candidacy for the open seat election. The Bustos retirement coupled with Rep. Charlie Crist’s (D-FL) expected gubernatorial announcement would create 16 open or vacant US House seats, eight from each party.