Author Archives: Jim Ellis

New Jersey Confusion

New Jersey

New Jersey

Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) death yesterday illuminated another ambiguity in the New Jersey Election Code. At stake is whether Gov. Chris Christie (R) is forced to schedule a replacement special election this year, or whether his interim appointee can carry serve the remainder of Lautenberg’s current term.

The last time the state had a Senate vacancy occur outside a regular election period was in 2002, when Sen. Bob Torricelli (D) ended his post-nomination re-election bid due to campaign finance irregularities. Six weeks away from the ’02 general election, Torricelli was under heavy media pressure. Several incidents of potential illegality were coming to the forefront, and polls were showing him dropping behind GOP challenger Doug Forrester. With party leaders clearly understanding that the seat slipping through their fingers, Torricelli was forced out. Even though the Garden State election law seemed clear that the time for changing nominees had long since passed, the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed the Democrats to replace Torricelli. The man they had waiting in the wings to do so was none other than former senator Lautenberg, who had retired just two years earlier.
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Graves Out in Minn.; Tillis Commits In N.C.

When Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) announced that she will not seek re-election to a fifth term in the House at the end of last week, her action set in motion another political move. The congresswoman’s 2012 opponent, businessman Jim Graves (D), who held her to a 50.5 – 49.3 percent re-election victory on the heels of Bachmann’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, had previously announced his intention to seek a re-match.

Responding to Bachmann’s retirement announcement, Graves followed suit. Over the weekend, the Democrat announced that he is “suspending” his 2014 congressional campaign. He is unlikely to re-start his political effort.

Minnesota’s 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Though Bachmann only barely survived, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney scored a 56.5 – 41.5 percent advantage over President Obama in the district. Romney carried only one other Minnesota CD, the 7th (53.9 percent), ironically represented by Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson.

At this point, neither party has an official 6th District candidate. That will soon change, as a number of Republican hopefuls are about to come forward. Without Graves in the on the Democratic side, the eventual GOP nominee should cruise to election in the fall of 2014.

NC-Senate

The North Carolina Senate race is one of the campaign opportunities that has so far confounded the Republicans. With a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, first-term Sen. Kay Hagan (D), the GOP leadership was surprisingly having trouble recruiting a candidate. In the past few days, that situation has changed.

Thom Tillis, 52, is the Speaker of the NC House of Representatives. First elected to the state House in 2006, Tillis was chosen by his colleagues to lead the chamber when the Republicans captured the majority in the 2010 elections. Late last week he made official his quest for the US Senate.
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Arkansas Gun Ads

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns organization, founded and largely funded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s political operation, has launched an air attack against Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor (above). The senator opposed the background check legislation that recently died in the Senate. In response, Pryor launched his own counter-ad (below).

http://youtu.be/m5JDuTkHt20

Chafee Changes in RI; Fortenberry Stays in Nebraska

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee has come full circle. The son of former governor and senator John Chafee (R), Lincoln, then the Republican mayor of Warwick, RI, was appointed to the US Senate succeeding his late father in 1999. He then won election to a full term in 2000, but began straying further and further to the left through the first six years of the George W. Bush administration.

In the anti-Republican year of 2006, Sen. Chafee was turned out of office in this most Democratic of states at the hands of former Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Embittered by his defeat and some Bush Administration policy directives such as the Iraq War, Chafee left the Republican Party and became an Independent. Returning to run in a three-way race for the open governor’s seat in 2010, Chafee made his comeback successful, becoming the only Independent elected to a gubernatorial post in that particular election year.

Yesterday, Gov. Chafee completed his conversion to the Democratic Party by officially registering as a member. He did this for purely political reasons, thinking the action would bolster his desperate re-election chances. Chafee’s approval ratings are arguably the worst in the nation. Nate Sliver’s 538 website (May 28 data table) recently gathered job approval scores for 41 governors who are measured in 2013 public polling data. Of the 41, Gov. Chafee placed dead last, scoring a miserable 26:69 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Chafee has never been known as one who executes brilliant political moves, and this action may actually make his re-election even more difficult. The first primary election before the new electorate is always the most tenuous for a party-switcher and already two major Democratic office holders appear poised to enter the gubernatorial campaign. It is unlikely that Chafee now joining the Democratic Party will dissuade either state Treasurer Gina Raimondo or Providence Mayor Angel Taveras from running against him.
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The Bogus Tie

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Public Policy Polling just tested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R) political strength through a liberal Senate Majority PAC-sponsored push poll (May 23-24; 556 registered Kentucky voters). The data projects McConnell to be in a flat-footed tie (45-45 percent) with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D); but in reality, the veteran senator is in much better position.

Though Grimes might be the Democrats’ strongest potential senatorial candidate, it is highly unlikely that she will run. Despite repeated overtures from Democratic leaders asking her to enter the race, Grimes has yet to make any move that suggests she is contemplating such a move.

The Senate Majority PAC polling questionnaire is far from being objective. Containing inflammatory statements against McConnell, the poll is designed to obtain negative responses about him. Examine their questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? “Mitch McConnell is part of the problem in Washington, DC, and has forgotten about the people of Kentucky.” Result: Agree, 50-40 percent
  • Mitch McConnell has voted to cut taxes for millionaires like himself, while supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare for hard-working Kentucky seniors. Does this make you more or less likely to vote for him, or does it not make a difference? Result: Less Likely, 50-23 percent
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