Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Robin Kelly Wins Democratic Primary in Illinois

As expected, ex-Cook County Chief Executive Officer Robin Kelly won the special Democratic congressional primary to replace resigned Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) in the Chicago-anchored 2nd Congressional District. Kelly is now a lock to win the heavily Democratic seat in the special general election scheduled for April 9.

Kelly easily outdistanced former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) 52-25 percent. The ex-congresswoman was making her second attempt at winning this district (losing to Jackson 29-71 percent in the CD-2 2012 regular Democratic primary) after suffering a re-election defeat in the 11th District two years ago. Prior to serving one term in the US House, Halvorson represented part of Will County in the state Senate for 12 years, rising to the position of Majority Leader.

In this special primary, the Chicago/Cook County vote coalesced around Kelly, thus giving her the inside track to victory. Halvorson’s only hope was to see the urban vote split among several candidates and thus allow her to solidify the more suburban and small rural constituency in the Will and Kankakee County areas of the district. Once the Chicago political establishment began to solidify behind Kelly, and other strong candidates began withdrawing and subsequently endorsing her, the race was effectively clinched.

Halvorson also had to endure a $2 million-plus pounding from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC, which ran a series of attack ads against her vis-a-vis the gun control issue and her previous support from the National Rifle Association.

Placing third was Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale who scored 11 percent. A total of 16 Democratic candidates received votes in last night’s primary, with just three  Continue reading >

Wild Italian Election Results

We don’t often stray into the international world of campaigns and elections, but because the result of the important Italian election was even more unusual than predicted, we are.

Choosing the membership of the country’s new Parliament will have a great effect upon whether the Italian economy — Europe’s third-largest economic entity — stabilizes, and therefore all of the Eurozone. Certainly this region’s economic status has great effect upon the United States.

The underlying electoral conclusion is uncertain. With former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party coalition apparently headed toward controlling a Senate plurality and the center-left coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democratic Party and current Prime Minister Mario Monti’s small Civic Choice Party claiming the majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the country will likely succumb to political stalemate. Both the CoD and Senate wield equal power.

Perhaps the biggest political story is the performance of comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement Party. If the final vote tallies meet expectations, Grillo’s party will be the largest single entity in both houses and of similar size to both coalitions. Because Grillo was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in 1980, he was ineligible to run for Parliament, but he is the face of this insurgent political entity and will wield significant power behind the scenes.

Turnout was below the last election’s (2008) participation rate of 80 percent of the eligible voters. More than 50 million Italians were eligible to vote this year, and it appears over 75 percent participated. The election being held in February instead of the normal spring time, and heavy snow and rain falling throughout the country were factors in pushing the turnout downward.

Much is yet to happen as all sides maneuver for political position. The final resolution is anything but clear.

IL-2 Primaries Tomorrow

The first and most important step to replacing resigned Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) occurs tomorrow as Democrats and Republicans go to the polls in Illinois to choose their respective nominees. Former Cook County CEO Robin Kelly appears best positioned to win the Democratic primary. Because this Chicago-anchored seat is so heavily Democratic (Obama ’12: 81 percent), tomorrow’s party primary is tantamount to victory in the April 9 special general election.

Originally, it appeared that the majority African-American Chicago vote could split among as many as four candidates, thus potentially allowing former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) to construct a coalition of less liberal, suburban, and rural voters in order to cobble together a victorious plurality.

Kelly’s ability to coalesce Chicago political leaders, such as Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL-1), Mike Quigley (D-IL-5), Danny Davis (D-IL-7), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), around her candidacy, and then winning state Sen. Napoleon Harris and Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s endorsements after they both withdrew as candidates, has clearly made her tomorrow’s electoral favorite. Getting the lion’s share of the Chicago vote will guarantee victory in the Democratic primary.
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Yes, No, Maybe So

Some of the 2014 US Senate races are already beginning to take shape, while others have yet to develop.

In just the past few days, political insiders in central Georgia are reporting that Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2) is telling supporters that he is seriously considering entering the open Senate race. In Iowa, others are saying that while Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4) is moving toward running for his state’s open Senate seat, Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3) is more likely to seek re-election than run statewide.

Below is a quick snap-shot of the candidate situation in what are expected to be the more hotly contested Senate campaigns of the election cycle:

  • ALASKA: Sen. Mark Begich (D) – Seeking his second term
    • In: Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R)
    • Possible: Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan (R)
    • Unlikely: Gov. Sean Parnell (R)
    • Out: Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R)
  • ARKANSAS: Sen. Mark Pryor (D) – Seeking his third term
    • In: Lt. Gov. Mike Darr (R)
    • Possible: Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4)
    • Out: Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR-2)
  • GEORGIA: Open Seat – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) – Retiring
    • In: Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA-10)
    • Likely: Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11)
    • Possible: Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA-2), Rep. Tom Price (R-GA-6), Rep. John Barrow (D-GA-12), Sec of State Brian Kemp (R)
    • Unlikely: Former Sen. Max Cleland (D), former Sec of State Karen Handel (R), Mayor Kasim Reed (D)
    • Out: Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-3)

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Montana’s Baucus is Vulnerable

A new Public Policy Polling survey (Feb. 15-17; 1,011 registered Montana voters; 371 “usual” Democratic primary voters) shows clear vulnerability for Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). The senator, first elected in 1978, is preparing a run for a seventh term next year. Prior to his service in the Senate, Baucus spent four years in the US House of Representatives.

While the senator’s numbers aren’t particularly strong, he fares much worse against individuals unlikely to challenge him. Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who has repeatedly said he has no intention of running for the Senate, compares very well to Baucus if he were to oppose him in the Democratic primary. According to the survey results, the ex-two-term governor would bury the veteran federal incumbent 54-35 percent. Schweitzer’s personal favorability index registers a strong 56:37 percent positive to negative. In contrast, Sen. Baucus’ job approval ratio is an upside down 45:48 percent.

Three Republicans are highly competitive with the senator, but at least two of them won’t become candidates. Former Gov. Marc Racicot (R) leads Baucus 47-42 percent. Freshman Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT-AL) enjoys a 49-44 percent margin over the incumbent. Newly elected Attorney General Tim Fox (R) trails Baucus only 43-46 percent.

When paired individually against the two Republicans who have announced a campaign for the Senate — ex-state Senate Minority Leader Corey Stapleton and state Rep. Champ Edmunds — Sen. Baucus re-establishes healthy leads. He tops Stapleton 45-38 percent, while posting a full 10-point advantage over Edmunds, 47-37 percent.
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First Georgia Senate Polls

Max Cleland

Max Cleland

Two different pollsters tested the Georgia electorate about their new open Senate race (Sen. Saxby Chambliss retiring) and came away finding that one party’s strongest candidate is someone who shows no interest in running.

Both Harper Polling (Feb. 11-12; 939 registered Georgia voters; 375 Republican primary voters; 338 Democratic primary voters) and Public Policy Polling (Feb. 15-18; 602 registered Georgia voters; 366 Republican primary voters) found that Democratic former Sen. Max Cleland, who served one term from 1997 to 2003 (he lost his 2002 re-election to Sen. Chambliss 46-53 percent), would defeat all potential Republican nominees if he were to run in 2014. The former senator, now 70 years old, has given no indication that he is contemplating a political comeback, however.

Tested against the four Republican US representatives who have either entered the race or are considering such, Harper projects that Cleland would place ahead of  Continue reading >

Nebraska Sen. Johanns to Retire

In a surprising announcement, first-term Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns (R), announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year. Johanns, a former US Agriculture Secretary, two-term Nebraska governor, mayor, and county commissioner was elected to the Senate in 2008, defeating rancher Scott Kleeb 58-40 percent.

Sen. Johanns appeared to be a lock for a second term, but says he and his wife’s desire to return to “a quieter life” after what will be 32 years in public office at the end of this Congress is what drives his decision.

The seat should easily remain in Republican hands because the Democrats have a weak political bench in the Cornhusker State. With their best possible candidate, former Sen. Bob Kerrey, losing badly to freshman Sen. Deb Fischer (42-58 percent) last November in what was a clear Democratic year nationally, the party leaders and candidates will have a difficult time reaching the realm of competitiveness in 2014.

On the Republican side, the early speculation surrounds popular term-limited Gov. Dave Heineman. Clearly, he would be the party’s strongest candidate should he make the run.

If the governor takes a pass on the race, then look for one or more of the state’s three congressmen to take the leap. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE-1) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE-3) are more likely to run than 2nd District Rep. Lee Terry (R). Terry, just appointed chairman of the House Sub-Committee (of Energy & Commerce) on Commerce, Manufacturing, & Trade, may  Continue reading >