Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Is A Budding Red Rebound Emerging?

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2020 — Two years ago, several national political prognosticators were predicting a strong Democratic election, i.e., “a blue wave,” by using special election results, mostly from state legislative campaigns, as one of their fundamental support arguments. As we know, the forecast proved correct.

To what degree the special election totals were a precursor is difficult to say, but it is reasonable to believe that real-time results are a better voting trend indicator than publicly released polls, many of which are methodologically flawed. Therefore, it is worth analyzing similar voting patterns as we approach the 2020 election.

North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte)

The victory of Republican Mike Garcia in California last week marked the first congressional special election of this election cycle to flip from one party to the other. Republicans have won five of the six special US House contests, including those of Garcia and Wisconsin state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua), who easily claimed his state’s vacant 7th District, last Tuesday.

The other significant special election occurred late last year. Though Rep. Dan Bishop’s (R-Charlotte) victory in North Carolina came in a seat that historically produced Republican victories, he was certainly considered an underdog at the outset of the special election campaign. He rebounded, however, to score a two-point victory, nonetheless, which in many ways makes it as noteworthy as the Garcia win.

The NC-9 election was necessitated because voter fraud in the 2018 general election prevented the Republican candidate from being certified the winner. After almost a year of keeping the seat vacant, the state’s Board of Elections called a new election that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) scheduled for Sept. 10, 2019.

In the campaign, Bishop was outspent $7.5 million to $2.7 million and that was on top of the $6.1 million Democrat Dan McCready expended in the 2018 general election. Furthermore, Democratic strategists predicted victory in this race because the Charlotte-Fayetteville seat contains a large suburban population, the type of district where their candidates certainly excelled in 2018, and President Trump’s job approval ratings were languishing around the 40 percent mark at the time. All things considered, the Bishop victory should not be characterized as a routine Republican hold.

According to the Ballotpedia election research organization, during the 2018 voting cycle, 197 special state legislative elections were held around the country, 98 of them in 2017, and 99 in 2018. Republicans risked 110 of the seats, substantially higher than the 87 the Democrats were forced to defend. In 2017, Democrats gained a net 11 legislative seats nationally, and eight more in 2018 for a cycle total of 19 net flips (Democrats actually won 26 Republican-held seats, but the GOP took back seven Democratic districts). It was these numbers that largely led the prognosticators to point to changing trends.

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Questionable New Georgia Data

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R)

May 18, 2020 — The Public Opinion Strategies polling company, which conducts research for appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), though that was not mentioned in their latest Georgia survey release, unveiled their new statewide study that finds the appointed incumbent moving up while other Republicans aren’t faring as well.

The statewide POS poll finds President Trump trailing former vice president Joe Biden by a single percentage point (47-46 percent), while Sen. David Perdue (R) is only edging Democrat Jon Ossoff by a 43-41 percent spread with an unknown Libertarian candidate attracting a rather high-seven percent support factor. The questionnaire then became focused upon the COVID-19 crisis and how the situation is being handled from Washington and Atlanta.

Previously Loeffler had dropped to fourth position in other Georgia polls, and she trailed Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) by a 2:1 margin while Collins led all the jungle primary candidates. The POS study (May 4-7; 500 likely Georgia voters) positions Loeffler in second, just one point behind Collins. Almost as mysteriously, while all other recent polling finds the northeast Georgia congressman capturing between 29 and 36 percent of the overall respondent preference, the Loeffler campaign poll sees him dropping 10 points and shows her leading him by a single digit (19-18 percent).

While the racial demographics of the POS 500-person sample of likely Georgia voters are a reasonable characterization of the state – though Hispanics are represented in only half of their actual percentage and Asians are under-counted, too – the partisan breakdown is flawed. (The lower Hispanic and Asian could be one reason Loeffler passed two Democrats to barely claw into second position.)

According to the poll’s small-sample data, 42 percent of the respondents are self-identified Republicans while 41 percent are Democrats. Another 16 percent say they are Independent. Additionally, while the female population base in the state is 51.4 percent statewide, women comprise more than 53 percent of respondents in this poll. Again, a relatively small number, but one that would benefit Sen. Loeffler most likely above any of the other candidates.

Let’s think about the partisan division. Georgia is one of 19 states where voters don’t register by political party, therefore it is impossible to tell exactly how many people identify as Republican, Democrat, or Independent. The electorate has certainly voted, however, in much better Republican numbers than this survey indicates.

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An Upset Win in California for Garcia

By Jim Ellis

California Republican Mike Garcia

May 14, 2020 — Despite thousands of ballots still to be received and tabulated, California Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) conceded the 25th Congressional District special election race to Republican Mike Garcia late yesterday, making this the first time in decades that the GOP has converted a Democratic seat in the deep blue state.

According to the California Secretary of State, the semi-official preliminary totals showed Garcia, a retired Navy fighter pilot, taking 56 percent of the vote from the 143,335 tabulated ballots. Though votes will be flowing into the election center through Friday evening, it became obvious to Smith that there would not be enough late ballots to overcome Garcia’s substantial 17,339-vote advantage.

Though the California registration figures show 420,928 individuals on the voter rolls in this congressional district, meaning a current turnout of 34.1 percent with many more ballots coming, the progression did not appear to yield the huge participation factor Smith needs to turnaround the final election result.

In the March 3 state primary, 156,550 CA-25 voters participated in the regular election, a total not far from the preliminary tabulation we saw in Tuesday’s special general, remembering that the 3/3 vote, at the time, featured a competitive Democratic presidential nomination event. Of the total, 81,994 voted in the Democratic presidential primary in a CD that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) carried over former vice president Joe Biden, 35.6 – 33.6 percent.

On the Republican side, in their non-competitive race, 64,138 individuals voted in the presidential primary with incumbent Donald Trump taking 92.3 percent of the cast ballots.

Other past races find that this special election turnout could still grow substantially. In the 2018 midterm general election that elected Rep. Katie Hill (D), who would become embroiled in a sex scandal that forced her to resign a year later, 245,022 people participated. In the 2016 presidential election year, 261,161 voters cast their ballots in the congressional race.

Therefore, these latter turnout figures imply the participation rate could still grow, but even the larger historical numbers suggest that CA-25 is a mid-level turnout district in relation to the other California congressional districts. In the presidential election year, the district ranked 24th of the state’s 53 CDs in voter participation. In 2018, with their turnout figure approaching presidential election level voting, CD 25 reached 22nd position within the California district universe.

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Tiffany Wins in Wisconsin;
Nebraska Primary Nominees Chosen

By Jim Ellis

May 13, 2020 — Wisconsin Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany, as expected, easily won the special congressional election last night in the Badger State’s northwest 7th District with 57.2 percent of the vote from a huge voter turnout universe of just under 192,000 individuals. The Democratic nominee, Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker, was a consensus candidate for the special, but she raised less than $500,000 for the race and the national Democratic institution did little to assist her from the outside.

Once the vote tally is finalized, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will certify the result and Tiffany will be sworn into the House of Representatives to complete former congressman Sean Duffy’s (R-Wausau) term. Duffy resigned from office in August of last year for family reasons and the seat has been vacant ever since.

The 7th District occupies 21 central and northwest Wisconsin counties and parts of five others. For more than 40 years, former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D) represented the district. Rep. Duffy won the seat for the first time in 2010 after Obey chose to retire after serving 21 terms in office. Since the 2010 election, the district has moved toward the Republicans, and Tiffany’s victory seems to cement the seat as safe territory for the GOP.

The congressman-elect now will enter the regular 2020 primary scheduled for Aug. 11. The candidate filing deadline is June 1, but it is unlikely he will see much competition in either the primary or general election considering last night’s strong performance.


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Election Day Today:
California, Nebraska, Wisconsin

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Two congressional special general elections will be conducted today, but only one is expected to produce a winner tonight. Additionally, voters in Nebraska are casting ballots in their regular state primary.

The two special elections are in California and Wisconsin. The California seat, vacated when scandal-ridden freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned from office in October, has been controversial for a few weeks. The quieter contest is in Wisconsin where Republican state Senator Tom Tiffany is expected to hold the northwest 7th District that former Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) vacated for family reasons.

In the Cornhusker State, since first-term Sen. Ben Sasse has little opposition in the Republican primary and what appears to be seven minor statewide Democratic candidates vying for the party nomination – none have even raised $100,000 – the race garnering the most attention is the 2nd Congressional District primary.

There, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillon/Omaha) runs for a third term in what is again expected to be a competitive general election. Democrat Kara Eastman, who held Rep. Bacon to a 51-49% victory in 2018, is back on the ballot today principally facing Ann Ashford, the wife of former one-term US Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), and is favored to win tonight.

The California race in the state’s 25th District, which occupies much of northern Los Angeles County and a sliver of Ventura County, is formerly a Republican seat that switched to the Democrats in 2018. Clearly moving toward the latter party in terms of demographics and voting trends, the seat is still politically marginal to the degree where either side could win. Both candidates have spent over $2.2 million and are at parity in outside spending coming into the district for a contest that has sparked controversy.

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall), who represents close to half the district in the state legislature, was caught on camera disparaging Republican Mike Garcia’s military record. Mr. Garcia is a retired Navy fighter pilot. Ms. Smith later publicly apologized for her comments.

Furthermore, Republicans are already calling foul over how the election is being administered. President Trump, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Garcia have raised concern whether the election will be fair. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered this special contest conducted primarily by mail, and in California the state allows voters to postmark their ballot on Election Day meaning votes could take days to reach the county election authorities considering the state of mail delivery during the COVID-19 shut down.

In addition to the mail ballots, the state has organized fewer than 15 voting centers for people to vote in person. Another point of controversy — a new voting center was just added in the city of Lancaster, which is predominantly Democratic and 69 percent majority minority. Additionally, as Rep. McCarthy illustrates, Gov. Newsom closed the state’s beaches in response to COVID-19 health concerns but won’t heed his motion to suspend door-to-door ballot harvesting for this election.

In a way, the special election is somewhat moot. The counties have until July 15 to certify the election, so it is clear we will not have a final count for days if not weeks, thus allowing the winner even less time in Congress. Regardless of the outcome, both Garcia and Smith will advance to the regular November election, where the campaign will be re-run. Republicans sense an upset possibility, but Democrats have much more on the line. Losing a Democratic seat in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home state might well sound an alarm for their general election prospects.

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