Monthly Archives: September 2021

Newsom Wins Recall; Other Elections

By Jim Ellis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Sept. 16, 2021 — California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) easily avoided being recalled in last night’s statewide election, but the margin will likely close once all of the ballots are received and finally counted. The reported results are largely from mail ballots received well before election day. The posted turnout totals exceed 9 million voters, and this number will continue to grow.

The NO option on the recall ballot, meaning the vote individuals cast in order to keep Gov. Newsom in office, is running just under 64 percent, but under the California system of ballot signature verification it will be several weeks before we see official final totals. California also allows a long post-election period for ballots postmarked on election day to be received. It is clear, however, that Newsom will survive in office by a wide margin, but with an end-result closer margin than we see in early returns.

Though the replacement election became moot with the recall being rejected, conservative commentator Larry Elder was the clear leader, recording a tick under 47 percent of the vote. The next closest candidate was Democrat Kevin Paffrath with 10 percent. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) finished third with just under 9 percent. John Cox (R), who was one of the leading recall effort funders and the finalist against Newsom in the 2018 election, fell back to less than 4.5% of the vote. Media star Caitlin Jenner (R), who proved not to be a serious candidate, scored just 1.1% in the replacement election.

All of the replacement candidates were at a disadvantage in terms of financial resources. Though Elder raised a reported $18 million, an impressive amount in a short time frame, Gov. Newsom spent possibly as much as $80 million.

The rules for Newsom, however, were different. Because he was the recall subject, and the people were deciding the question as to whether or not he alone should remain in office, the campaign financial structure for him was that of a referendum. Therefore, he could raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and entities. The replacement candidates, because they were running in an election campaign, were bound by the state campaign finance laws that feature contribution amount limits.

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The New Mexico Ploy

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2021 — During the last week reports were surfacing that suggested the New Mexico State Democratic leadership was considering ways to turn the current 2D-1R congressional map into a 3D-0R plan. This might be easier said than done, however.

New Mexico is one of the Democrats’ 15 “trifecta states,” meaning the party controls all three legs of the redistricting stool: the state Senate, state House, and governor’s mansion. Republicans have 23 trifectas. Therefore, if the Democrats are to minimize the redistricting damage, or even possibly come out slightly ahead, they must fully use their political leverage in the states they control.

Of the Democrats’ 15 trifectas, however, five of the states handle redistricting through a commission, and in another five the party already controls all the congressional seats. Therefore, if they are to make a national redistricting play they must take maximum advantage in Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. The lay of the land, however, makes it very difficult to expand their fortunes in Nevada and possibly Oregon, which is why trying to take an extra seat from New Mexico makes some sense from a national Democratic perspective.

New Mexico has three congressional seats, all of which a freshman represents. The 1st (Rep. Melanie Stansbury; D-Albuquerque) and 3rd Districts (Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez; D-Santa Fe) in the northern part of the state are safely Democratic.

The southern 2nd District (Rep. Yvette Herrell; R-Alamogordo), which encompasses almost all of the territory south of Albuquerque, has performed as a Republican seat at the congressional level in 19 of the last 21 elections. Democrats picked up the district in their recent wave election years (2006; 2018) with open seat victories, but the voters favored the Republican challenger in both successive elections. This, despite NM-2 being a majority Hispanic district: 53.7 percent of the overall population according to the previous census data.

Additionally, the current seats are not widely out of population balance. The 1st District needs to gain just 11,264 people, while the 2nd must shed 8,181 individuals, and the 3rd must relinquish 3,082 residents. Therefore, a radical re-draw that results in a sweep of the three districts for one party when the population swings are so small would certainly draw a political gerrymandering lawsuit upon adoption of the new map. Whether such a lawsuit would succeed of course is a question that can only be answered when the final map is drawn and enacted.

Likely, the only way to draw a 3D-0R map in New Mexico would be to keep the northern 3rd District Democratic seat virtually intact, and then draw the Republican 2nd into Albuquerque. This would cause the city and Bernalillo County to be split resulting in the 1st and 2nd then appearing as southwestern and southeastern seats that divide Albuquerque, and subsequently stretch all the way to the Mexican border.

Even this draw might make it difficult to create three Democratic seats because the southeastern district would still have the potential of being Republican enough to make the party’s candidate, in this case Rep. Herrell, strong enough to have a chance of winning a general election.

New Mexico is a good example as how a largely internal state exercise can transform itself to help achieve a national partisan goal. It remains to be seen just how bold the New Mexico Democrats will be, as this small and sometimes obscure state steps into the national redistricting limelight.

Trump Chooses Cheney Opponent

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 14, 2021 — Movement is occurring in the Wyoming Republican primary challenge race against at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson). At this point, however, the latest developments may still not be enough to deny her re-nomination in a crowded open GOP primary scheduled for Aug. 16, 2022.

Former Wyoming Republican National Committeewoman Harriet Hageman late last week announced her candidacy as a Republican representative in the state’s lone congressional district to challenge Rep. Liz Cheyney (R-Wilson).

Attorney and former Wyoming Republican National Committeewoman Harriet Hageman late last week announced her candidacy in the Equality State’s lone congressional district. She joined a throng of eight GOP candidates opposing Rep. Cheney in the 2022 primary.

A day after Hageman’s announcement, former President Donald Trump, who is the focal point of Rep. Cheney’s actions relating to the Jan. 6 uprising at the Capitol and her vote to impeach him, is now actively supporting one of the candidates.

Hageman, in a coordinated announcement and endorsement over a two-day period, entered the race knowing she had the support of the former national chief executive. Such backing has often helped other endorsed candidates prevail in similar Republican primaries.

After Trump publicized his Hageman endorsement, the field slimmed to seven as US Air Force veteran Bryan Miller and attorney Darin Smith ended their campaigns, thus answering the former President’s call for the party to unite behind one candidate.

The remaining group of contenders, state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Laramie), state Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper), retired Army Colonel Denton Knapp, former Pavillion mayor, Marissa Joy Selvig, and two minor candidates, have not yet followed suit.

Polling suggests that the crowded field, with the anti-Cheney vote split multiple ways, could allow the congresswoman to win re-nomination with a rather small plurality. Another point in her favor is that Wyoming does not register voters by political party affiliation. In this state’s nomination elections, and in many other places, voters simply choose the party primary in which they desire to participate.

This system would allow disaffected Democrats to vote in the Republican primary. They would likely support Cheney, having the goal of thwarting the Trump and conservative forces who are attempting to oust her.

Because Rep. Cheney has gone so far to oppose Mr. Trump’s post-election actions and stances, denying her re-nomination becomes a significant test of the former president’s party leadership. Cheney has even aligned herself with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in taking her Trump opposition to the ultimate level by serving as a member of the House select committee investigating the Capitol uprising. This was knowingly done so in defiance of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) directive to the GOP members vis-a-vis committee participation.

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The Tennessee Rumor

Tennessee Congressional Districts (click on image to see larger)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2021 — Unconfirmed stories from Democratic sources are flying around the Internet suggesting that the Tennessee Republican state legislative leadership is in the process of drawing a new congressional map that would shred Rep. Jim Cooper’s (D-Nashville) seat and convert the current 7R-2D map into 8R-1D.

This may well be happening, but when looking at the population densities in each of the state’s nine congressional districts, drawing such a map may be unavoidable and not entirely partisanship-driven. The problem for Cooper and the Democrats is not the congressman’s Nashville-anchored 5th District. Rather, the Memphis seat of Rep. Steve Cohen (D) is the source of their difficulty. It is this 9th District, with a major population shortage and unfavorable geographic boundaries from a redistricting perspective, that could adversely affect Rep. Cooper.

Despite Tennessee ranking as the 17th fastest growing domain during the previous decade, the Volunteer State did not gain a new congressional seat in reapportionment. Additionally, and the fundamental problem for Rep. Cooper, middle Tennessee is experiencing explosive growth, while the east and the west are inhabitant deficient, at least from a congressional district equivalency perspective. Rep. Cohen’s Memphis anchored seat is the least populated of the nine CDs and must gain 77,122 people to meet the new Tennessee congressional district population requirement of 767,871 individuals.

As you know, Memphis sits in the far southwestern corner of Tennessee. Therefore, the Cohen district is bordered by Arkansas to the west and Mississippi to the south. Thus, the people needed to fill the 9th can only come from the north and east. To further complicate matters, the TN-9 is a Voting Rights majority minority district and must remain with relatively constant minority population numbers.

Additionally, the 8th District of Rep. David Kustoff (R-Georgetown), that stretches from Kentucky to Mississippi and the only place from where the 9th District can annex the people it needs, is also under-populated. To meet its own population requirements, the 8th CD must gain 51,524 inhabitants, hence having to stretch closer to the Nashville area districts, which is how Cooper’s Nashville seat factors into Memphis’ population swing problem. Combined, these issues making drawing western Tennessee difficult.

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Ohio Data: Below the Surface

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 10, 2021 — The London-based Redfield & Wilton Strategies international survey research firm tested electorates in several American states at the end of August, and today we look at their Ohio results. With a major open Senate campaign and a Republican governor seeking re-election in 2022, the Buckeye State is once again a national political focal point for the coming political year.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan announces his candidacy for the 2020 Presidential Election on the TV talk show, “The View.”

The Redfield & Wilton poll (Aug. 20-24; 1,200 likely Ohio voters) finds the Republican Senate candidates performing adequately opposite US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown), who, at this early stage, has become the Democrats’ consensus statewide Senate contender.

Former state treasurer and 2012 US Senate candidate Josh Mandel (R) holds a 51-47 percent ballot test lead over Rep. Ryan within the sample segment who are self-identified as likely 2022 general election voters. Author J.D. Vance (R) largely falls into a dead heat with Ryan, trailing 37-36 percent, as does former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken who places within two points of the congressman, 38-36 percent.

In the governor’s race, incumbent Republican Mike DeWine, who former Rep. Jim Renacci is challenging in the GOP primary from the ideological right, looks to be in strong shape against potential Democratic opponents. If Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley were the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Gov. DeWine would post a 46-27 percent advantage. Should Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley become the Democratic nominee, he would trail the governor by a slightly larger 47-25 percent spread.

Generally, the Ohio polling pattern leans Democratic in the early going and then closes in the Republican candidates’ favor, while consistently understating GOP strength.

In the 2020 presidential election, Ohio polls in July of the election year were returning Joe Biden leads of 4-8 percentage points before former President Trump would rebound to score a mean average 1.0 percent polling lead close to election day, and then win the state going away with an eight-point margin, 53-45 percent. In 2016, the pattern was similar. In the July-September period, Hillary Clinton held leads of between 4 and 7 percentage points only to see the average favor Trump by a 2.2 percent spread. He would win the state 51-43 percent.

The same pattern occurred for Sen. Rob Portman (R) in 2016 and was present to a degree against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in 2018. In June through September of that year, certain polls found former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leading incumbent Portman with a 3-6 point edge. As the race closed, Sen. Portman established an average 18-point lead and won 58-37 percent.

Even in a Democratic victory, the polling trend favoring Democrats early and then closing for the GOP toward election day was again present. During June-September of 2018, Sen. Brown held leads between 13-17 points. Going into the election, his polling average had slipped to 11 points, and he only won with a 6.4 percent margin.

Keeping this pattern in mind and then looking at the underlying Biden job approval numbers in the R&W poll suggests that even today, the GOP candidates are poised for a stronger finish than the current results yield. Overall, the Redfield & Wilton figures point to a 40:46 percent favorable to unfavorable presidential approval ratio for Biden, which isn’t particularly bad particularly in a state that the subject did not win. The underlying numbers, however, point to a much greater negative.

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