Author Archives: Jim Ellis

It’s Now Down to Three

By Jim Ellis

David Valadao (R)

Nov. 24, 2020 — Unofficial victory projections are being made for California’s 21st Congressional District in favor of Republican former Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford). It is becoming clearer as more mail votes are being counted and the pool of remaining ballots diminishes to under 10,000, that Valadao has defeated freshman Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) in one of the few remaining undetermined congressional campaigns.

Real Clear Politics, the Cook Political Report, and the local Fresno Bee newspaper are all reporting that Valadao has won the race, though the former Congressman himself has yet to declare victory and Cox has not conceded defeat.

Valadao, who previously served three terms in the House after his original election in 2012 before losing to Rep. Cox in a tight 862-vote margin two years ago, currently leads the 2020 outcome by 1,618 tabulations.

Cox has attracted 58.5 percent of the vote in Kern County, the district’s largest population entity, but with approximately 9,000-11,000 votes remaining at most even such a large percentage will likely leave him over 1,000 tallies short of Valadao’s total. Over 1,500 votes remain in Kings County, in which the Republican recorded 62.1 percent support. Tulare County, which finds only eight percent of the voting population contained within the congressional district, split almost evenly between the two men as Cox leads there by just 21 votes. Fresno County has fully reported.

The Valadao victory means the Republicans have now gained a net 10 seats with three races remaining outstanding. A fourth undetermined race, that in Louisiana’s 5th CD, is going to a post-election runoff on Dec. 5. While the winning candidate is yet unidentified, the secondary election is between two Republican candidates, former congressional aide Luke Letlow and state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria), so the GOP is assured of holding the seat.

Also, in California, freshman Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Santa Clarita) is claiming to have won the north Los Angeles/Ventura County 25th District. Though only leading by exactly 400 votes with what looks to be in the neighborhood of 4,500 ballots waiting for verification and counting, this razor-thin race looks to be coming down to the final few ballots.

Democratic opponent Christy Smith, a first-term state assemblywoman, accused Rep. Garcia’s victory declaration as being “dangerous to our democratic process.” She then immediately filed a 2022 congressional committee with the Federal Elections Commission. Therefore, if Garcia does in fact win the contest, it appears we will see the third edition of a Garcia-Smith campaign two years from now.

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Outstanding Races Near Conclusions

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 23, 2020 — We are now down to four undetermined US House campaigns and one that will go to a double Republican runoff on Dec. 5.

Last week, the NJ-7 race that was called for Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) on election night but rescinded when the post-election votes were drawing state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield) close to dead heat range, has now culminated. Again, Rep. Malinowski was determined to be the winner when the number of uncounted votes became less than the margin between the two candidates.

The open 5th District in Louisiana is headed to a Dec. 5 runoff election. Here, Republicans Luke Letlow and state Rep. Lance Harris (R-Alexandria) will battle to replace retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto). Since both finalists are Republicans, the GOP keeping this seat is not in doubt.

The Iowa 2nd District race between state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) and former state senator and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart (D) continues in full recount. Miller-Meeks had a 47-vote lead as the recount began. Under Iowa law, the leader has been certified as the winner, but that would change should the recount produce a different result.

Hart filed recount petitions in all of the district’s 24 counties. The various election officials have 18 days to complete their additional canvass, which means we should see a conclusion here sometime near Dec. 1.

In New York, counting continues in the 22nd District where former US Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) continues to lead freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) by a relatively substantial margin as the number of uncounted ballots slowly dwindles. The latest count finds the former congresswoman and ex-state Assembly member leading Rep. Brindisi by 10,967 votes according to the CNN count, which appears to have the most updated data.

Almost 292,000 ballots have been counted with an estimated 26,000-plus votes remaining. To overcome the difference, Rep. Brindisi would have to attract approximately 71 percent of the outstanding ballots. In the 2016 election, 296,086 individuals voted in the congressional race. Therefore, if the estimated outstanding total of 26,000-plus is near correct, then turnout would have increased approximately nine percent from the last presidential election turnout model when compared to the current vote.

In the last group of approximately 25,000 votes, Congressman Brindisi garnered closer to 68 percent in reducing Tenney’s lead from 21,812 votes to the current number. Unless the remaining ballots are even more Democratic than the latest batch, Tenney will likely remain in the lead and soon claim victory.

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More on Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

Winners & losers in the redistricting tug of wars

Nov. 19, 2020 — In yesterday’s Update, we ended with the paragraph, “Considering the states that are losing and gaining seats, party control, and changing political trends, the Republicans are still likely to lose a small net number of seats in the transfer process despite holding the most redistricting power.”

This statement generated some questions about why the Republicans could lose seats in the apportionment transfer when they hold the balance of power in more states. Today, we delve deeper.

At this point, and remembering these are only estimates that could change when the actual apportionment formula produces the official number of seats that each state will possess, it appears ten seats will move from one state to others. Therefore, it is projected that Texas (3), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will gain districts, while Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia will lose a seat apiece. We will now explore each individually:


States That Lose

• Alabama – Even though Republicans have full control and a 6R-1D delegation, the Republicans will take the loss here. The Democratic district is a Voting Rights seat, so the loss will come from the GOP column even though they hold the redistricting pen.

• California – The lopsided California delegation, even with Republicans gaining one to three seats here when the votes are all finally counted, will likely yield the Democrats losing the district. California is a commission state that operates under strict guidelines. Therefore, the mathematics suggest, in what will potentially end as a 43D-10R delegation that the transfer seat loss will come from the Democratic column.

• Illinois – Though the state delegation features only five Republicans from a group of 18 members, the Democrats control the redistricting process here and 10 years ago produced the most lopsided of partisan gerrymanders. Expect them to figure a way for the Republicans to take the one seat loss.

• Michigan – The voters adopted a new redistricting commission, but the composition parameters look to favor the Democrats. Therefore, expect the 7D-7R delegation to recede by one Republican seat.

• Minnesota – This state features the only state legislature where each party controls one legislative chamber. Though this gives the Republicans a seat at the redistricting table, the population loss in the northern part of the state, where they have two seats, will likely result in the 4D-4R delegation lessening by one Republican seat.

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The Redistricting Prelude

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 18, 2020 — The Census Bureau continues to make progress in completing the decennial population count and it appears the national apportionment report, which details how many congressional seats each state’s population earns, will be delivered to Congress in early January. Because of COVID, the apportionment process has been slightly delayed since the report typically has a year-end deadline.

Once apportionment is known, states then begin receiving their updated data necessary for drawing new congressional and state legislative districts. The states with the earliest primaries are the first to receive their data so they have adequate time to prepare their new congressional and state legislative boundaries.

In terms of apportionment, it is expected that Texas may gain approximately three seats and Florida two. The other gaining states are likely to be Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. Those losing seats appear to be Alabama, California (for the first time in history), Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. These estimates are not always completely correct, so this list could change when the actual apportionment is applied and publicly released.

A total of 34 states will draw their new districts solely through the legislative process. The remaining multi-member states operate through a type of commission, either an independent body or one under political control. Seven states are at-large meaning their congressional race is statewide. Rhode Island joins this group in 2021 as it will lose its second seat, while Montana will likely regain the district that was lost in the 1991 reapportionment.

In the Nov. 3 election, Republicans saw a net gain in state legislative seats around the country. Only one state saw its legislative chambers flip, however, the New Hampshire House and Senate moving from Democrat to Republican. This means Republicans will control 61 legislative chambers as compared to the Democrats’ 37. The Nebraska unicameral legislature is elected on a non-partisan basis, but Republicans control that chamber as well.

Republicans will again have the advantage in the states where the legislatures and governors determine the new map boundaries. Democrats, largely under the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that former Attorney General Eric Holder leads, targeted 13 states to protect or gain legislative chambers. They failed in all, as Republicans kept their majorities in each state they previously controlled and flipped New Hampshire to their column.

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Attack of the Attack Ads

(Sen. Perdue Ad)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 17, 2020 — All four Georgia Senate runoff candidates are already hitting the airwaves with new messages that telegraph just where they want their campaigns to head in the final weeks of 2020 political overtime.

As you know, Sen. David Perdue (R) faces Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff for the in-cycle six-year term, and appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) opposes Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) in the special election to fill the final two years of resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) final term. Loeffler was appointed when Isakson left office at the end of 2019 for health reasons. Both contests will be decided on Jan. 5.

The outcome will decide the Senate majority. If the Democrats sweep the two races, they will become the majority party because the new vice president, Kamala Harris, will break the 50-50 tie. If Republicans just win one of the two, they will maintain their current majority status, albeit smaller, at 51-49. Winning the pair means the GOP will have only lost a net of one seat in the 2020 election cycle as their majority would register 52-48.

Sen. Perdue set the tone of his runoff effort with a new ad (top) that highlights Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) saying, “when we (meaning the Democrats) take Georgia, we will change America.” The Perdue ad defines “the Schumer-Pelosi-Ossoff” change as “defund[ing] the police, voting rights for illegal immigrants, and making Washington, DC the 51st state.” The message then quotes Ossoff as saying, “change is coming to America.” The ad closes with the narrator saying, “believe them. Vote Perdue to stop them.”

(Jon Ossoff Ad)

Ossoff responds with an ad (above) solely devoted to COVID-19. The media consultants found virtually identical COVID related statements from President Trump and Sen. Perdue, and then runs their audio consecutively in an attempt to tie the two together. The ad closes with the narrator saying that “David Perdue ignored the medical experts, downplayed the crisis, and left us unprepared.”

The special election is taking a much different tone. Challenger Raphael Warnock, the Baptist minister who pastors the church over which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father once presided, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, re-visits Sen. Loeffler’s controversial COVID related stock transactions and creates an ad around this subject (below).

(Raphael Warnock Ad)

The script says Sen. Loeffler, “after receiving confidential briefings on Coronavirus immediately starts dumping stocks …making sale after sale and getting rid of $3.1 million before the market crashed.” The tagline ends with the narrator saying, “Kelly is for Kelly. Warnock is for us.”

The ad, of course, makes no mention of Sen. Loeffler’s transactions being investigated and cleared by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but it is more than probable that we will be hearing that part of the story in future Loeffler campaign communications.

Sen. Loeffler launched a hard-hitting new attack centered around her theme, “saving the Senate is about saving America.” The ad attacks Rev. Warnock for “calling police thugs and gangsters, host[ing] a rally for Communist dictator Fidel Castro, and prais[ing] Marxism in speeches and writings.” (below)

(Sen. Loeffler Ad)

With the campaign battle lines being drawn early in this two-month runoff campaign, we can expect this type of hard-hitting rhetoric to continue all the way to the Jan. 5 election as both sides attempt to motivate their base voters to return for the runoff.

The last time we saw a US Senate runoff in Georgia – Georgia and Maine are the only two states that require general election winners receive majority support – occurred in 2008 when Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) was forced into a secondary vote. The circumstances were similar. Sen. Chambliss placed first in the general election but, like Sen. Perdue, finished just a few thousand votes under the 50 percent threshold (49.8 percent). This forced Chambliss and his opponent, Democrat Jim Martin who received 46.8 percent, into a Dec. 2 runoff election of that year.

Sen. Chambliss prevailed in the runoff with 57.4 percent of the vote. In that year, 3.752 million people voted in the general election with 2.138 million returned for the runoff election for a drop-off rate of 43 percent. In 2020, a total of 4,945,702 individuals cast a vote in the Perdue-Ossoff Senate race, while the figure was approximately 37,000 people lower for the special election, 4,907,872. While a drop-off from the 2020 general election is expected, political intensity suggests it will likely not be as high as we saw in the 2008 US Senate runoff campaign.