Author Archives: Jim Ellis

A Tale of Two Governor’s Races

Rep. Charles. A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D) | Gov. Chris Christie (R)

Rep. Charles. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D)                       Gov. Chris Christie (R)                    

Maryland

Late last week, Rep. Charles. A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-MD-2) confirmed that he is considering a race for governor next year. Incumbent Martin O’Malley (D) is term-limited, and the open race already is attracting a great deal of attention, particularly from Democrats. Virtually all of the strong candidates hail from the Washington, DC suburbs, while Ruppersberger would, at this point, be the only contender from the Baltimore metropolitan area. The geographic split would give him a clear advantage if the DC-area vote becomes split.

Ruppersberger won election to his sixth US House term last November. He represents the largest portion of Baltimore County of any Maryland congressman, in addition to having more than 83,000 residents from Baltimore city. His district also covers significant portions of Anne Arundel and Hartford Counties, with a sliver of Howard County.

The congressman defeated state Sen. Nancy Jacobs (R) 65.6-31.1 percent in November, but the Republican spent less than $300,000 on her challenge.

Other Democratic likely candidates are Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who already has scheduled his formal announcement for early May, Attorney General Doug Gansler, state Del. Heather Mizeur and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. The Democratic primary will almost assuredly  Continue reading >

Baca May Challenge Gary Miller in California

Former representative Joe Baca (D-CA-43), who lost his 2012 re-election campaign to fellow Democrat Gloria Negrete McLeod in the post-redistricting 35th CD (California’s new election law now allows two members of the same party to qualify for the general election under certain circumstances), said last month that he would seek a re-match. Now, he may change targets. Instead of again battling Rep. McLeod, Baca might launch a challenge to Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA-31) in the adjoining district.

Under the 2011 redistricting map, California’s 31st Congressional District, fully contained within San Bernardino County, already possesses the most interesting voting history of any new Golden State seat. Despite it being heavily Democratic (Obama ’12: 57.2 percent, making it the most Democratic seat represented by a Republican in Congress), CA-31 qualified two Republicans for the general election. Rep. Gary Miller, coming into the seat from his redistricting-collapsed 42nd District, won a 55-45 percent victory over Republican state Sen. Bob Dutton last November. Miller’s performance in the 2012 election is rather extraordinary considering he literally represented no one in this new district during his previous service.

Originally, the 31st paired Baca with then-Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41), in what was viewed as a “lean Democratic” seat. With Hispanics constituting 49.3 percent of the population base, the seat appeared to be designed for a Democrat, but its previous voting history suggested a Republican could win. In addition to representatives Baca and Lewis, former Rep. David Dreier (R-CA-26) also represented a significant portion of the new 31st and it, for a time, was considered a potential landing district for him, too.

Baca’s decision to run in the new 35th CD, a district where just under 61 percent of the constituency hails from his old 43rd District, was a surprise. Despite him representing a large chunk of the new district, it was clear he would have to oppose  Continue reading >

Governorships in the Balance

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

In the current 2013-14 election cycle, 38 of the 50 gubernatorial campaigns will occur. Though the Republican Party did poorly in the 2012 national election, they still claim their largest stable of governors in modern political history. Today, the Republicans control 30 state houses as compared to 19 for the Democrats. One state, Rhode Island, features an Independent governor. Lincoln Chafee was originally elected to the Senate as a Republican but, after his defeat from federal office, he chose to run for governor in 2010 as an Independent. Earlier in the year speculation grew that Chafee might seek re-election as a Democrat, bringing him full circle through the political party process if he follows through.

One state, Virginia, is among five states that elect chief executives in odd-numbered years. The Commonwealth also invokes a one-term limit, meaning an open race for the position every four years. Two states, Vermont and New Hampshire, maintain two-year terms for their respective governors. The other 48 states award four-year terms.

In looking at the 38 races, Republicans must defend 24 of the gubernatorial seats to the Democrats 13, in addition to the one Independent. Only six of the seats are open, five due to term limits. Massachusetts Gov.  Continue reading >

New McConnell Polling

Public Policy Polling (April 5-7; 1,052 registered Kentucky voters) tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) as he prepares for re-election. The poll was taken after actress Ashley Judd (D) stated that she would not challenge the senator in 2014.

As has been detected in other polls, McConnell’s job approval is poor. According to this study, only 36 percent of the sampling universe approves of his performance as the state’s senior senator, versus 54 percent, who do not. By contrast, fellow Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s approval index is 46:39 percent. When asked whether the respondents hold a higher opinion of Sen. Paul or McConnell, by a 42-24 percent split the group responded Paul.

Right now, the Democrats do not have a viable candidate to challenge the Republican leader. If first-term Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes were to run — an alternative that she has not ruled but is not likely to pursue — McConnell would lead her 45-41 percent. If defeated representative Ben Chandler (D-KY-6), for example, were to become the Democratic nominee, the senator would lead him by a similar 46-41 percent margin. Chandler also gives no indication that he will enter the race.

Though McConnell is unpopular, he still fares reasonably well in ballot tests against the most viable potential Democratic opponents. Unless a top-tier challenger comes forward, McConnell must still be rated as a clear favorite for re-election.

Kelly Breezes to a Win in Illinois

Robin Kelly

Robin Kelly

Former Cook County CEO Robin Kelly (D) will officially replace resigned Illinios Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), as she easily outdistanced Republican Paul McKinley last night in her heavily Democratic, Chicago-anchored, congressional district. Kelly received 73 percent of the vote in a special general election that was a mere formality. She unofficially won the seat back in late February when topping a field of 16 Democratic candidates, including former US Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) and Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale.

McKinley, who won the Republican nomination on the same day that Kelly triumphed in the Democratic primary, was not a serious candidate. A convicted felon who served approximately 20 years in prison for a series of armed robberies and burglaries was never viewed as a candidate with any upset potential. McKinley spent just over $7,500 for the entire campaign. Kelly dropped more than $600,000 on her effort. Turnout was in the 85,000-vote range, which is rather high considering the lack of competition in the campaign.

The congresswoman-elect will be sworn into office later this week. She will stand for re-election in the regular election cycle.

Two other House vacancies still exist. South Carolina’s Charleston-anchored 1st District will be filled on May 7. Former governor  Continue reading >

Schwartz is in; Is King Committed?

Pennsylvania

As expected, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA-13) yesterday announced that she will challenge Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R), but the opposite situation may be happening in Iowa. Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4), who is also expected to run statewide, made some surprising statements suggesting that he is not committed to a run for his state’s open US Senate seat.

Rep. Schwartz has been viewed as a probable statewide candidate since before last November’s election. It was originally believed that she would match up with Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in 2016, but when rumors surfaced pairing her with Gov. Corbett she did not dissuade the talk. With her formal announcement yesterday, Schwartz is now an official gubernatorial candidate and her safe Democratic congressional seat will yield a highly competitive party primary early next year.

Gov. Corbett’s favorability ratings have been poor during the past several months, and that provides a clear indication of vulnerability for next year. But, Schwartz is unlikely to have a clear path to the Democratic nomination. Already in the race is state Department of Revenue director Tom Wolf. Poised to enter is state Treasurer Rob McCord. Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), who held Sen. Toomey to a 51-49 percent victory margin in 2010, is said to be a potential gubernatorial candidate.

Iowa

Like Schwartz, King has been viewed as the presumptive Republican nominee to vie for retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D) seat ever since fellow GOP Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3) announced that he would not run statewide. Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA-1) is already an announced senatorial candidate. Statements King made this weekend, however, suggest he may be leaning against such a run.
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Brown Considering NH Senate Bid

Scott Brown (R-MA)

Scott Brown (R-MA)

A surprising news story broke late last week that indicated former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown (R) is contemplating a political comeback strategy before a different electorate — this time in neighboring New Hampshire.

Despite brandishing some of the stronger approval ratings of any senator standing for re-election in 2012, Brown lost his seat to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) by a substantial seven percentage point margin. When Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) was appointed Secretary of State earlier this year, political observers and activists from both parties were closing watching whether Brown would run in the upcoming April/June 2013 replacement special Senate election. Since he won the seat in 2010 via special election after veteran Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) passed away, it was natural to question whether or not Brown would try again, particularly after he made post-defeat comments that refused to close the door about seeking public office in the future.

The fact that Brown ultimately decided not to run led to common speculation that he would seek what will be an open governor’s office in 2014. Though Republicans have a poor record of winning federal office in Massachusetts, the party has won four of the last six gubernatorial campaigns. But, apparently such a race is not in Brown’s present political calculations.
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