Author Archives: Jim Ellis

LA-5: Letlow Wins Runoff

Luke Letlow, Louisiana (LA-5) Republican

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 8, 2020 — Luke Letlow, who had served as chief of staff to Louisiana 5th District incumbent Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto) up until the time he announced his candidacy to replace the retiring congressman, convincingly won Saturday’s double-Republican runoff election to claim the open seat contest as we noted yesterday.

With his victory, Letlow becomes the 212th Republican heading toward the new session of Congress with one campaign uncalled (NY-22) and another being challenged (IA-2). Majority Democrats currently have 222 clinched seats.

Letlow defeated state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), 62-38 percent, winning all but one of the district’s 24 parishes. At total of 79,309 voters participated in the runoff election, a 15 percent turnout of the district’s 528,278 registered voters. The Letlow victory margin was just over 19,000 votes.

In the original “blanket primary” election on Nov. 3, Letlow placed first with 33 percent of the vote as compared to Rep. Harris’ 17 percent to create the double Republican secondary election. Harris slipped past Democrat Candy Christophe by 428 votes in the original vote in order to qualify for the runoff and effectively secure the seat for the Republicans. The Nov. 3 election saw a 5th District turnout rate of 70.1 percent.

The “blanket primary” is the phrase Louisianans use to describe the system more commonly described as a “jungle primary.” That is, all candidates appear on the same ballot regardless of political party affiliation and the top two advance into a runoff election if no one receives majority support in the original vote. The Bayou State was the first to adopt this system and originally did so in 1978.

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Friday’s LA-5 Runoff

https://youtu.be/1BUfn_Iia6oLouisiana state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) attacks opposing candidate and fellow Republican Luke Letlow over enriching himself during his career in politics.

By Jim Ellis

Monday, Dec. 7, 2020 — The Jan. 5, 2021 Georgia US Senate runoffs are not the only post-election secondary campaign contests, even though they dominate the national political attention since their outcomes will determine the chamber majority. The nation’s other runoff election was scheduled for this past Saturday in northeastern Louisiana for the state’s 5th Congressional District.

A little background on the race: Unlike Georgia, there was no suspense as to which party wins the seat – both Louisiana contenders are Republicans – but the identity of the winning candidate was in question up till Friday.

Luke Letlow finished first on Nov. 3 (33.1 percent) from a field of nine candidates in what is termed a “blanket primary” in Louisiana but a “jungle primary” elsewhere. He also finished first Saturday, Dec. 5. More analysis tomorrow from that. The candidate field Nov. 3 consisted of five Republicans and four Democrats, and Letlow doubled the vote total of his nearest competitor. State Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) finished second (16.5 percent), qualifying for the runoff by just 428 votes over third-place finisher Candy Christophe, the top Democratic contender.

Letlow is a former chief of staff to retiring Congressman Ralph Abraham (R-Alto), who is honoring a term-limits pledge to only serve three terms. Dr. Abraham was a 2019 Republican gubernatorial candidate, losing the Republican nomination to businessman Eddie Rispone by three percentage points. Rispone would then fall to Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) in the November ’19 runoff on a 51-49 percent count.

Letlow served as Rep. Abraham’s chief during his entire congressional career up until the time he (Letlow) declared his own candidacy. Prior to that, the 2020 top 5th District vote-getter held a position in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

Lance Harris is a convenience store chain business owner and farmer who was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2011. He was unopposed in his succeeding re-election campaigns, those in 2015 and 2019.

Harris’ parents were missionaries in China and became prisoners of the Communist regime. They survived captivity and were released, only to be killed in a car accident in 1984 after returning to Louisiana. Harris explains that his parents’ experience drives him to fight socialism, which is why he entered elective politics after establishing his career in business.

While the contest was fairly quiet in the blanket primary, the runoff turned combative. Harris attacked Letlow for his career in politics (see ad at top), citing in his ads that his opponent has made “over $1 million in working for politicians including Bobby Jindal” and then worked as a lobbyist.

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IA-2: Hart Petitions the House

By Jim Ellis

IA-2 Republican congresswoman-elect Mariannette Miller-Meeks – or is she?

Dec. 4, 2020 — As things officially stand, Rita Hart, the Democratic nominee in the open IA-2 congressional district that occupies the southeastern part of the state, has lost to state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) by a grand total of six votes from more than 393,000 ballots cast, but the challenge process from the Democrat is apparently not over.

Though the state has certified the race, Hart is reportedly preparing to take the results directly to the US House of Representatives, asking the House Administration Committee to investigate the counting process. Ultimately, the House itself has the power to seat all of its members.

Normally, any individual possessing a duly authorized certificate of election from the state’s official election administrator, usually the Secretary of State, is seated. There is precedence, however, for denying duly elected candidates their seats.

Under Iowa election law and procedure, Hart had another way to challenge the results. Her campaign staff claims that certain ballots were not counted in the original or recount process, and there are enough, they say, to flip the final outcome in Hart’s direction.

In Iowa, such a disputed election goes to a judicial panel over which the state Supreme Court Chief Justice presides. In addition to the Chief Justice, the high court then chooses four other judges from around the state to comprise the special panel. In this case, the judges would have had to declare an official winner by Dec. 8 in order to comply with Iowa law. The Hart campaign contended that was not adequate time to consider the ballot challenges, so they opted to petition the House itself.

Rep. Zoe Lofrgen (D-CA) chairs the House Administration Committee, which includes five additional Democrats, two more from California, and three Republicans. The other members are: Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Susan Davis (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), and Pete Aguilar (D-CA). The Republicans are Ranking Minority Member Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Reps. Mark Walker (R-NC), and Barry Loudermilk (R-GA).

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The Early Vote Predictor

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 3, 2020 — While it became clear that the plethora of polling data published during the 2020 election cycle again proved to be a poor predictor of eventual campaign outcome in most states, another resource was discovered that might be the more reliable prognosticator.

The states releasing early voting numbers before the election – not the actual election results, of course, but the numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated voters who had returned their ballots – provided the opportunity of charting possible race outcomes. As a predictor, the early voting numbers, largely because they are actual votes and not extrapolations and estimates as found in polling, look to be a more reliable gauge.

Let’s examine the results in the key battleground states and compare them to both the 2020 and 2016 early voting numbers as compiled by the Target Smart organization. Target Smart monitored, categorized, and published the early ballot return numbers throughout the acceptance period in every state that publicly released such data. Unfortunately, for purposes of our exercise, the Georgia 2020 numbers are among the states not currently available.

In Arizona, we see a difference in the 2016 and 2020 early vote numbers that indicated a small shift in the voting patterns. Detecting that Democratic early vote participation had increased several points from four years ago while Republicans were down slightly did prove indicative in relation to the final Arizona result that yielded an official 10,457 vote Biden victory.

In Florida, we see the Democratic early vote numbers dropping slightly. This is a bit surprising in that 2020 featured a record voter turnout. The fact that Republicans gained a bit in the swing was a predictor of President Trump’s stronger performance in the Sunshine State as compared to the result from four years previous.

As we can see from the Michigan numbers, Democrats increased their early voting participation while Republicans saw a decrease. Unaffiliated voters substantially increased. Considering the final result, it is apparent that most of the Unaffiliateds voted Democratic in the presidential contest.

The North Carolina early vote numbers gave us our first clear indication that the pollsters were mis-casting the state’s electorate. The clear indication that Democrats were missing their marks in early voting while Republicans were exceeding their expectations was the first indication that the final vote would produce a different result than the plethora of polls were suggesting.

Pennsylvania featured drastic changes in not only the partisan early vote pattern, but also in volume as early voting increased by more than twelve-fold in comparison to 2016. The stark difference in Democratic versus Republican participation levels did forecast a swing to the former party, though the final totals were not as drastically different as the early voting yields.

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Analyzing the Patterns

By Jim Ellis

President Trump | via Flickr

Dec. 2, 2020 — Now that election results are being certified around the country, we can begin to analyze the numbers in an attempt to detect what voting patterns developed throughout the electorate.

In looking at the presidential state-by-state totals from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, we can begin to see that President Trump fell below his previous vote marks not only in places like Arizona, Georgia, and the Great Lakes region, but in several other places, as well. This, despite seeing over 10.5 million more people voting for him in 2020 when comparing his totals from those recorded four years ago.

In a total of 18 states, Trump dropped below his 2016 performance rate, including eight places that he carried in both 2016 and 2020. In all eight, however, his drop-off rate was less than one-half percentage point.

Conversely, in 32 states, he exceeded his 2016 performance mark and surprisingly so in such left of center states as California (+2.7 percent), Hawaii (+4.9 percent), Nevada (+2.2 percent), New Mexico (+3.5 percent), New York (+5.6 percent), and Washington (+2.2 percent). Mind you, he came nowhere near carrying any of these states, with the exception of Nevada, but the president did record slight improvement when compared with his 2016 vote performance.

The state where Trump outperformed his 2016 total by the most is Utah (12.6 percent), but that is largely because there was no strong Independent or significant minor party candidate on the ballot in the 2020 election. Four years ago, Independent Evan McMullen did well in Utah, attracting 21.5 percent of the Beehive State vote thus allowing Trump to carry the state with only a plurality of 45.5 percent. In 2020, his victory percentage improved to 58.1 percent.

One of the key reasons former vice president Joe Biden won the election is because he increased Democratic performance over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote totals in every state but New York. This allowed him to tip the balance away from President Trump in the critical states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, those states the latter man carried in 2016 but were lost to Biden in this current election.

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