Monthly Archives: January 2023

2022 Midterm Turnout Trends

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By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023

Elections

A Look at the Midterm Numbers — Particularly in low turnout elections, the voter participation figure tends to be definitive as to which party commands the final result. Now that election statistics are final for the 2022 election, we can better analyze the voting patterns and compare them to past trends.

2018 proved to be the highest turnout midterm election in history. In that year, more than 114 million people cast their ballots. The 2022 midterm is now second highest even though voter turnout dropped seven percent from four years previous. In November, just under 106 million total votes were recorded. 

According to the Ballotpedia data organization in their state-by-state turnout recap, 50.33 percent of the eligible voting population participated in 2018 and a commensurate 46.76 percentage is recorded for 2022. By contrast, Ballotpedia finds that 66.8 percent of the eligible voting population participated in the 2020 presidential election. Based upon their calculations, 2020 saw the highest eligible voter turnout in the 21st century.

The Ballotpedia data tells us that the 2022 election’s top five turnout states were Oregon (61.51 percent of the state’s eligible voter figure), Maine (61.46 percent), Minnesota (61.01 percent), Wisconsin (60.1 percent), and Michigan (59.31 percent). 

Conversely, the lowest five turnout states were Tennessee (31.34 percent of the state’s eligible voter figure), Mississippi (32.89 percent), West Virginia (35.66 percent), Alabama (37.74 percent), and Oklahoma (40.11 percent). 

Three of the top turnout states saw a much higher ratio of registered voters casting their ballots when compared to the eligible figures. Maine’s registered voter turnout soared to 75.3 percent, Wisconsin recorded 75.1 percent, and Minnesota reached 69.4 percent. Michigan was one of just 11 states where 2022 turnout exceeded that of 2018.

Except for Tennessee and Alabama, the lowest turnout states also produced substantial increases in registered voter turnout when compared to their eligible voter number. Oklahoma rose to a 50.23 percent participation rate from the registered voter population; Mississippi 44.3 percent; and West Virginia 40.8 percent. Even among registered voters, the Tennessee and Alabama totals failed to reach the 40 percent plateau.

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Ricketts Already Draws Challenge; West Virginia Gov. Eyes Senate Bid; More Challenges re: Rep. Schweikert; Another One Jumps the Gun in CA-30

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023

Senate

Nebraska Rancher Chuck Herbster (R)

Nebraska: Senator-Designate Ricketts Already Draws a Potential Challenge — Not yet even sworn into office, Nebraska Senate-Designate Pete Ricketts (R), who new Gov. Jim Pillen (R) last week chose to fill the vacancy that former Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R) resignation created, may already be drawing a 2024 Republican challenger.

Rancher Chuck Herbster, the 2022 gubernatorial candidate who former President Trump endorsed and would lose to Pillen with then-Gov. Ricketts’ strong support, confirmed that he is considering launching a nomination challenge when the latter man first faces the voters in the May 2024 Republican primary. One reason Herbster lost the ’22 primary, however, was because several women went public with sexual harassment accusations, a controversy sure to arise again if he makes another attempt to seek public office.

Regardless of Herbster’s plans, it is probable that Ricketts will face a contested primary next year. His appointment was not unanimously well received within all quarters of the Nebraska Republican Party, but he has a full year in which to build an expanded intra-party winning coalition.

West Virginia: Governor Contemplates Senate Campaign — In a media interview at the end of last week, term-limited West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) confirmed that he is “seriously considering” making a US Senate run next year. Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has not committed to seeking re-election. He could retire, or enter the open governor’s race, since Gov. Justice is ineligible to run for a third term. Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) already has announced his intention to challenge Sen. Manchin. At this point, West Virginia appears as the Republicans’ top national conversion target.

House

AZ-1: More Challenges Brewing Against Rep. Schweikert — Arizona Rep. David Schweikert’s (R-Fountain Hills) 3,195-vote victory over media consultant Jevin Hodge — a percentage margin of just 50.4 – 49.6 percent — proved to be the 12th-closest US House result in the 2022 election cycle. Predictably, Schweikert — who has been plagued with an ethics controversy surrounding his handling of campaign and federal monies and who significantly under-performed in a district that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as R+7 — will draw another serious challenge in 2024.

Already, three individuals are publicly taking action or mulling challenges. Dr. Andrew Horne, a local orthodontist, has officially announced his candidacy. Hodge, the 2022 nominee, confirms that he is considering another run. Former local news anchor Marlene Galan-Woods (D), widow of the late Republican-turned-Democrat Attorney General Grant Woods, also acknowledges her potential interest in making a congressional run in the state’s new 1st CD. Count on this race developing into another major national target campaign next year.

CA-30: Another One Jumps the Gun — We continue to see a chain reaction of political moves in California since Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) announced her intention last week to run for the Senate. In anticipation of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) entering the Senate contest (though he has yet to say so), we now have two credible Democratic candidates announcing for what they think will be the congressman’s open seat.

As we previously reported, Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education Vice Chairman Nick Melvoin (D) declared for the House seat, and immediately afterward state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Burbank) announced that she, too, will compete for Rep. Schiff’s federal position. Through all of this, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) has yet to announce her own 2024 plans, though all of these moves are based upon her expected retirement.

Fox News: Six More Democrat Senators Could Retire

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Jan. 16, 2023

Senate

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) to retire

Retirements: Six Possible — Late last week, Fox News Online ran a story suggesting that six more Democratic senators may opt for retirement in 2024 following the lead of Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), who announced last week that she will not seek a fifth term.

In addition to Sen. Stabenow’s retirement, California Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) declared her Senate candidacy even though incumbent Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has yet to disclose her own re-election plans.

With this backdrop, the six senators listed below are (in order of most likely to retire to least):

  1. Dianne Feinstein (CA): It is presumed that Sen. Feinstein, who will turn 91 years of age before the next election, will retire. Some are expressing their belief that Rep. Porter is disrespecting Sen. Feinstein’s long career – elected in 1992, she has served longer than any sitting Democratic member – and is potentially forcing the senator’s hand to make an announcement. With some in the leadership urging her to resign early due to health constraints, it appears evident that she will not seek re-election.
  2. Joe Manchin (WV): With faltering job approval numbers and from a state that is now becoming ruby red politically, speculation has been out there for some time that Sen. Manchin may not seek re-election or could instead attempt to regain his former position as governor. 
    Already, Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) has announced that he will challenge Sen. Manchin next year. Gov. Jim Justice (R), who will be term-limited in 2024 and has strong approval numbers, has not closed the door regarding running for the Senate. Polling suggests that both Gov. Justice and Rep. Mooney would begin a race against Sen. Manchin with a definitive advantage.
  3. Bob Casey, Jr. (PA): Last week Sen. Casey announced that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will have surgery in the coming months. He said his prognosis for a full recovery is excellent and plans on seeking re-election. If there is a downturn in his health, however, there is certainly a chance that his campaign plans could be forced to change. For now, Sen. Casey looks to be a sure bet to run for a third term, but unfortunately his precarious health situation could be an impediment to his quest.
  4. Jon Tester (MT): Sen. Tester is beginning to appear on more potential retirement lists, as he did in the Fox News story. Montana, like West Virginia, is another state that is turning solidly Republican making Sen. Tester’s re-election less than a sure thing. 
    The last time he was on the ballot (2018) he defeated current US Congressman Matt Rosendale (R-Glendive) by only a 50-47 percent margin in a state that has only grown more conservative since that time. In the 2020 election, Republican candidates won all eight of Montana’s statewide elections with victory margins between nine and 19 percentage points. During the same period, Sen. Tester’s voting record has moved decidedly to the left where he can no longer be considered a centrist incumbent. 
    Additionally, Montana’s other senator, Republican Steve Daines, is now chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), thus guaranteeing that Montana will be a top national GOP target with heavy funding to support the party’s eventual nominee. Therefore, with obvious lucrative opportunities available to Sen. Tester in the private sector, he might decide his future is more appealing on the outside of elective politics than fighting what will likely be a more difficult re-election campaign than he has before experienced.
  5. Tim Kaine (VA): Sen. Kaine, the Democrats’ 2016 vice presidential nominee and former Virginia governor, stands for a third term in 2024. The Fox analysis placed Sen. Kaine on the potential retirement list with the reasoning that Virginia could be moving more to the right, thus suggesting the senator might face a more difficult re-election campaign. 
    Such an analysis is incorrect. Despite Republican Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the 2021 Governor’s race – a two-point win where the last three weeks of the campaign turned decidedly his way under circumstances that are unlikely to be repeated — the state has clearly established itself as a reliable Democratic bastion. Expect Sen. Kaine to run again and face relatively weak opposition. He will likely romp to a decisive re-election victory.
  6. Tammy Baldwin (WI): Sen. Baldwin was placed on the potential retirement list for a reason similar to Sen. Kaine being included. The Fox News analysis cited Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R) tight victory — 50.4 percent with a 26,728-vote margin of 2.65 million ballots cast — as an indication that the state is becoming more favorable to Republicans. 
    This is the first time there has been a hint that Sen. Baldwin is a retirement possibility, and a close 2020 Senate race at the same time a Democratic governor was being re-elected should not be indicative of any future voting trend in a state that either party can win. There is little current reason to think that 60-year-old Sen. Baldwin would retire. Therefore, fully expect her to be on the ballot next year competitively vying for a third term.

Ricketts Selected to Replace Sen. Sasse; CA-30 Race Already Rolling; Elvis’s Cousin Announces for Gov.

By Jim Ellis — Friday, Jan. 13, 2023

Senate

Former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts selected to replace Sen. Ben Sasse.

Nebraska: Gov. Pillen Tabs ex-Gov. Pete Ricketts for Vacant Senate Seat — Sen. Ben Sasse (R) has officially resigned his seat in order to assume his new duties as president of the University of Florida, and new Gov. Jim Pillen (R), as expected, chose former Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) as the interim replacement. Ricketts will serve until the next general election in 2024. The seat is next in-cycle for a six-year term in 2026.

Gov. Pillen wanted to pick a senator who would commit to serving a long while in order to build seniority for the state to compliment two-term Sen. Deb Fischer (R) who is seeking re-election in 2024. Therefore, Ricketts committed to running both in 2024 and 2026. Senate-Designate Ricketts will be sworn into office when the Senate next convenes on Jan. 23.

House

CA-30: House Race Already Rolling — California Rep. Katie Porter’s (D-Irvine) move to declare for the Senate even before incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) announces her retirement has already set off a chain of reaction. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) says she will announce once Sen. Feinstein makes her retirement public. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) looks to be doing the same. In anticipation of the latter jumping into the Senate race, Los Angeles School Board member Nick Melvoin (D) announced yesterday that he will run for Schiff’s House seat.

Governor

Louisiana: Rep. Graves Considering Gov Race — Saying, “I think that the sentiment out there in the public for another candidate in this race is absolutely extraordinary,” Louisiana US Rep. Garret Graves (R-Baton Rouge) confirmed that he is still considering whether to run for governor later this year, and promises a decision in the next few days. The open gubernatorial field has changed drastically with both Sen. John Kennedy (R) and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R) declining to become candidates.

Graves was first elected to the House in 2018 and easily re-elected in 2020 and 2022 with 71 and 80 percent of the vote, respectively. He would not have to risk his congressional seat to run for governor in this odd-numbered year election. Attorney General Jeff Landry (R), state Treasurer John Schroder (R), and Department of Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson (D) presently appear to be the leading contenders.

The candidate filing deadline is not until Aug. 10. The jungle primary is scheduled for Oct. 14. If no one receives majority support in the initial vote, the top two finishers will advance to a Nov. 18 runoff election. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Mississippi: Elvis’s Cousin Announces for Governor — Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D), a second cousin to the late music legend Elvis Presley, announced that he will compete for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in a quest to challenge Gov. Tate Reeves (R) later this year. Presley was elected to the Public Service Commission in 2007 after serving seven years as mayor of Nettleton, a town of approximately 2,000 residents. He is the first person to become an official 2023 opponent to Gov. Reeves. Secretary of State Michael Watson is a potential Republican primary challenger.

Candidate filing closes Feb. 1. The statewide primary is set for Aug. 8 with a runoff date on Aug. 29 for those races where no candidate achieves majority support in the initial vote. The general election is Nov. 7.

Arizona’s Kari Lake Leads in New Senate Poll; Calif. Rep. Lee Indicates a Senate Run; Manchin for WVa Gov.?

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023

Senate

Former Arizona newscaster Kari Lake (R)

Arizona: Kari Lake (R) Leads in New Senate Poll — Former local Phoenix news anchor Kari Lake (R), who just lost a close race for governor, claims a small lead in a new hypothetical US Senate poll featuring she, incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I), and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix).

David Binder Research conducted the survey (Jan. 5-8; 618 registered Arizona voters; interactive voice response system & text) and projects that Lake, who has not indicated that she will run for the Senate, leads Rep. Gallego and Sen. Sinema, 36-32-14 percent, respectively. Though Sen. Sinema trails badly, she could certainly rebound and come from the outside to win especially if the Democratic and Republican candidates almost evenly split the remaining vote. Considering recent vote history since 2018, such an outcome is certainly possible.

Rep. Gallego is an all-but-announced Senate candidate. He may, however, face opposition from US Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Phoenix), and possibly others, in the Democratic primary.

California: Rep. Lee (D) Says She will Run for Senate — California Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) reportedly is telling supporters that she will run for the Senate next year, following Rep. Katie Porter’s (D-Irvine) lead, but will not declare her intentions until Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) announces her expected retirement. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) is also expected to follow a similar path into the Senate contest.

We will probably see a Democratic brawl that could last the entire election cycle considering that California’s top two primary system will likely advance two Democrats into the general election.

Considering both Reps. Porter’s and Schiff’s strong fundraising prowess, Rep. Lee will be at a clear financial disadvantage. The Bay Area, however, has produced most of the recent statewide elected officials, so geography would be a point in her favor. Count on a very crowded Senate field should Sen. Feinstein, in fact, decide to retire.

Governor

West Virginia: Sec of State Announces for Governor — Secretary of State Mac Warner yesterday announced his 2024 gubernatorial candidacy in what is already becoming a crowded open seat Republican primary. Mountain State Gov. Jim Justice (R) is ineligible to seek a third term, and may run for the Senate.

Already in the race is state Del. Moore Capito (R-Charleston), son of West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R), and auto dealer Chris Miller, the son of 1st District Congresswoman Carol Miller (R-Huntington). Two other minor candidates have also entered the race. No Democrat has yet come forward. Former state Delegate S. Marshall Wilson is also running, representing the Americans Coming Together Party (ACT). Many more candidates are expected to enter the race. Rumors persist that Sen. Joe Manchin (D) may run for governor instead of seeking re-election.

Rep. Porter Announces for Senate in California, Candidates Immediately Announce for Her Seat; Virginia State Races

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023

Senate

California: Rep. Porter (D) Announces for Senate — California Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) yesterday announced (see above video) that she will enter the 2024 US Senate campaign, apparently irrespective of what veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) decides about her own political future.

Accompanying the Porter video announcement was a poll that the David Binder Research company conducted for the congresswoman’s campaign committee soon after the November election. The study tested a hypothetical general election battle between Reps. Porter and Adam Schiff. Also included in the poll were Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna (D-Fremont), the latter of whom has also discussed running for the Senate. No Republican alternative was listed.

The Binder survey (Nov. 19-21, 2022; 600 registered California voters; live interview & online) projected that Reps. Porter and Schiff would advance into the general election from the state’s top two jungle primary system. Between Porter and Schiff, the electorate would break 37-26 percent in Porter’s favor with Republicans backing the Orange County congresswoman at a 25-5 percent clip. This is largely due to Schiff’s strong negative ratings among Republicans, likely over his prominent role in the Trump impeachment process.

House

CA-47: Candidates Declare for New Open Seat — We also saw quick action in what will be an open 47th Congressional District now that Porter is an announced Senate candidate. Former California state Rep. Scott Baugh immediately declared that he would run again, as did former Congressman Harley Rouda (D). The latter man was elected to the House in 2018 from the former 48th District, approximately 59 percent of which now lies in Porter’s new 47th. In 2020, Rouda lost his re-election to current 45th District US Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Orange County).

The CA-47 seat now becomes the second district to already open for the 2024 election cycle. Earlier, Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV) announced that he will challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next year, thus opening in northern West Virginia 2nd Congressional District for the next election.

States

Virginia Senate: Democrats Capture Vacant Seat — Though Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) defeated US Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk) in the November election, Tidewater Democrats rebounded last night with a tight win to convert her vacated Senate seat. Democrat Aaron Rouse captured a close 50.4 – 49.5 percent win over Republican Kevin Adams to expand the Dems’ Senate advantage to 22-18.

In 2020, President Biden carried this state Senate district with a 54-44 percent margin, but GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin won the seat 52-48 percent in the 2021 gubernatorial election. Therefore, the 7th Senatorial District is clearly politically marginal in nature.

Virginia House: Each Party Wins One Special Delegate Election — In two House of Delegates special elections, each party held a risked vacancy in landslide proportions. In the 24th District where Delegate Ronnie Campbell (R-Rockbridge) passed away in December, the deceased incumbent’s wife, Ellen Campbell, easily succeeded her late husband with a 66-34 percent victory.

In Fairfax County’s 35th House of Delegates district, Democrat Holly Seibold recorded a 67-33 percent win to keep the seat in the Democratic column. She will replace Del. Mark Keam (D) who resigned to accept a position in the Biden Administration. The pair of victories now yield 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats in the state House.

Two Announce in Michigan; Gov. Vacancy in Nebraska; House Announces Committee Chairs; Turmoil in Louisiana

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023

Senate

Michigan: First Two Announce — The first two candidates came forward to announce their intention to run for what will now be an open Michigan US Senate seat in 2024. Former state Rep. Leslie Love (D) and attorney Jacquise Purifoy (D) both declared their candidacy yesterday. These are the first in what is expected to be a long list of contenders for both parties. Last week, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) announced that she will not seek a fifth term in 2024.

One person who will not likely be in the field is Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who indicated yesterday that she will continue to serve in her current position.

Former Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, likely replacement for Sen. Ben Sasse.

Nebraska: Officially Vacant — Sen. Ben Sasse (R) has officially resigned his seat in order to assume his new duties as president of the University of Florida. This means new Gov. Jim Pillen (R) will now be able to name a replacement. Odds are strong that he will choose former Gov. Pete Ricketts (R). The announcement could come as early as today.

Once a replacement is chosen, the individual will then come before the voters in a special 2024 election, run concurrently with the general cycle, to fill the balance of the unexpired term. The seat next comes in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2026.

House

AZ-1: Rep. Schweikert Already Draws First Opponent — Veteran Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) had another close call in the 2022 election, winning a seventh term with just 50.4 percent of the vote in a newly configured district that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as R+7. His opponent was first-time candidate Devin Hodge (D), a communication consultant who may well run again.

Yesterday, however, orthodontist Andrew Horne (D) became Rep. Schweikert’s first 2024 challenger with his announcement of candidacy. We can again expect this race to be competitive in two years. A crowded Democratic field is expected to form.

Committee Chairs: Steering Committee Elects Three Newcomers — With the Speaker’s election now complete, the Republican Steering Committee met yesterday to finalize the remaining committee chairman posts. In a bit of a surprise, the committee, with Speaker Kevin McCarthy holding four votes and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) having two, elected Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee defeating favored Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) in a contest that went to a second ballot.

In other contests, Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), a former military doctor, defeated Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) for the Homeland Security Committee post. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), as expected, was elected chair of the Education and the Workforce panel, and Texas Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock) will be the new Budget Committee chairman. He defeated Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Lloyd Smucker (R-PA).

Governor

Louisiana: Lt. Gov. Shakes Up Field — In a surprising move, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser (R) changed his mind about running for governor and instead yesterday announced his intention to seek re-election later this year. Before, Nungesser said he would run for governor if Sen. John Kennedy (R) didn’t. After Sen. Kennedy declined to enter the race, it was assumed that Nungesser would immediately jump and become one of the leading contenders. Several others were declaring for the lieutenant governor role with the understanding that the seat would be open.

With Nungesser’s decision to stay put, it appears that attorney general and former Congressman Jeff Landry (R), someone Nungesser described as “not a good person” when previous discussion arose about his intentions regarding the governor’s election, becomes the front runner to replace term-limited incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

As a result of the Nungesser decision, state Treasurer John Schroder (R) then entered the governor’s race. The leading Democrat to date is Transportation Department Secretary Shawn Wilson. Candidate filing does not end until Aug. 10 for the Oct. 14 jungle primary, so the fluid contender field can still greatly change. If no candidate receives majority support in this first election, the top two finishers will runoff on Nov. 18.