Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Money Report: The Specials

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2020 — The April 15 deadline for releasing the 1st Quarter 2020 campaign finance reports has come and gone, so we can now begin to assess where some of the key campaigns stand with regard to their fundraising, spending, and available resources. The races headed to special elections are best defined; hence, we begin our series with this group.

Three special general elections will culminate in May and June. On May 12, voters in California and Wisconsin will select new House members. The New York special election follows on June 23.

The California special vote to replace resigned Rep. Katie Hill (D) in the Los Angeles/Ventura County 25th District is between state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and Republican retired Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia.

This race looks to be about even across the board, so it may be an interesting precursor for the 2020 general elections. While Smith placed first in the special and regular primaries by relatively substantial margins (11 points in the special; 9 points in the regular), the combined Republican vote among the 13 candidates in the latter election’s jungle format was actually greater than the combined Democratic vote.

In terms of spending according to the just released numbers, Smith expended $1.529 million in the first set of elections as compared to Garcia’s $1.462 million. First quarter fundraising favors Garcia, $277,234 opposite Smith’s $258,972. Garcia also led in cash-on-hand at the end of March, $446,742 to $357,256. Each candidate can also expect at least $1 million coming into the district from party and outside organizations to aid their respective cause.

Regardless of what happens in the special election, both of these candidates have ballot position in the November general election to battle for the regular term beginning in 2021. The special election to fill the balance of the unexpired term is an all-mail exercise scheduled for May 12.

Also on May 12, northwestern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District vacancy will be filled. In late August, five-term Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) resigned for family reasons and the special election to replace him is just about upon us. In the early April special primary, state senator Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) and Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker (D) advanced to the special general. The winner will serve the balance of the current term, and at least the future new member will file to compete in the regular election by the June 1 candidate filing deadline. The regular Wisconsin primary is scheduled for Aug. 11.

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Dueling Polls in North Carolina Show Disparity in Candidate Numbers

By Jim Ellis

April 20, 2020 — Within a 10-day period, two statewide polls producing radically different results were conducted of the North Carolina electorate. Rather unsurprisingly, the Republican polling firm turned in better results for the GOP candidates than did the Democratic company.

As has been the political narrative for this entire election cycle, North Carolina is going to be one of the most competitive states in the nation. The presidential, US Senate, and gubernatorial races will all be pivotal within the national context.

Harper Polling, the Republican firm, went into the field during the April 5-7 period and conducted live interviews of 500 likely general election voters. Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based Democratic survey research company, conducted a large sample poll of 1,318 North Carolina registered voters through a combination of interactive voice and text messaging response systems.

In both the presidential and US Senate campaigns we see diverse results, and particularly so for the latter, yet for the governor’s race the two firms yielded almost identical numbers.

Harper finds President Trump leading former vice president Joe Biden, 49-42 percent, well beyond the polling margin of error. This result is obviously good news for the president in what is for him a must-win state. Conversely, PPP projects only a 48-47 percent split among the two candidates, and in Biden’s favor. In actuality, the two pollsters, while a net eight points apart on their respective ballot tests, are close – within two points – on the Trump number. They are not even within the same realm, and in fact beyond any polling margin of error, on the Biden posting.

The president’s standing could actually be a bit better in North Carolina than these results, and particularly the PPP totals, indicate. In the 2016 election, he under-polled in the Tar Heel State. In the final three polls before the vote, from three different survey research firms, Hillary Clinton held an average 1.3 percentage point advantage over then-candidate Trump. The end result, however, was a 3.3 percentage point victory for the Republican nominee.

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The Kansas Senate Poll

By Jim Ellis

April 17, 2020 — For weeks, Democratic leaders and strategists have maintained that the open Kansas Senate seat is competitive for them if former secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 governor’s race as the party nominee, wins the 2020 Republican primary on Aug. 4. Public Policy Polling released a survey a couple days ago that seems to confirm such a premise, at least on the numerical surface.

According to the PPP research (April 13-14; 1,27 registered Kansas voters via interactive response device or text message), consensus Democratic Senate contender Barbara Bollier, a state senator from Mission Hills who is a former Republican legislator, would lead Kobach 44-42 percent in a head-to-head match-up.

Kobach is not the only Republican in the race, however, and his nomination is nowhere near being a foregone conclusion. PPP did not test Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) or Kansas state Senate president, Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), against Sen. Bollier or, if they did, such numbers were not released. Therefore, we don’t have a clear perception of the Democratic candidate’s overall strength before the Kansas electorate.

The underlying numbers would suggest another Republican would fare better against Sen. Bollier. President Trump’s job approval rating according to this poll is 52:43 percent favorable to unfavorable, and the generic partisan question – “ … would you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate” – is 50-40 percent in favor of an unnamed Republican.

Additionally, after push questions were asked of the respondents that paint Sen. Bollier in a much more positive light than Kobach, particularly that “she is a physician and wants to run for the Senate to help other people,” the numbers don’t change significantly. Post push questions, the secondary ballot test went to only 47-42 percent in Dr. Bollier’s favor.

Considering the nature of the slanted questions, which PPP routinely uses in many of their more ideologically based surveys, one would expect the ballot test to have grown substantially in the favor of the candidate who was painted in the most positive light, in this case Dr. Bollier.

The closeness of the secondary ballot test is even more noticeable when the pollsters asked the respondents which of the two candidates would do a better job handling the coronavirus pandemic. By a 50:18 percent ratio, the respondent universe stated the belief that Dr. Bollier would do an excellent or good job in handling the situation. On the other hand, Kobach’s split was an upside-down 34:44 percent in response to the same question. Yet, the ballot test number did not significantly change.

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Wisconsin: A Precursor?

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

April 16, 2020 — The April 7th Badger State primary election results were announced this Monday, and former vice president Joe Biden easily defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 63-32 percent, but that’s not the real story behind the final statewide totals.

The bigger race was an ostensibly nonpartisan state Supreme Court judicial election between appointed incumbent Daniel Kelly and Dane County Circuit Court judge Jill Karofsky. Though the Republican and Democratic labels did not appear on the ballot, both parties were heavily invested. And, with much money being spent and both sides “all-in”, many believed it to be a precursor to this year’s presidential campaign in a state that could well become the deciding factor nationally.

Wisconsin Republicans needed the seat to maintain their 5-2 majority on the court, and Democrats wanted to narrow the margin to 4-3 in order to position themselves to take the majority in the next election; hence, this contest’s importance.

Controversy surrounded whether to even hold the election. Democratic insiders and activists were lobbying Gov. Tony Evers (D) to petition the legislature to delay the vote because of the Coronavirus situation. Evers delayed taking action, but finally went to the legislature a week before the vote. The Republican legislative leaders turned Evers down, and subsequent court decisions backed the decision to hold the election on schedule, virtually the only state that was moving forward with an in-person voting mode.

The announced results gave Judge Karofsky a big 55-45 percent upset win, and whether or not this is a precursor to the presidential result remains to be seen. Some believe the fact that the Republican leadership was insisting on moving forward with the election – with people believing they wanted the election as scheduled because they felt the quicker vote favored them – resulted in a voter backlash; hence, Karofsky’s large margin in what was projected to be a much closer electoral contest.

Democrats fought hard to postpone the election and increase the mail-in facet – and most believe they wanted such because they perceived it favored them – but clearly won the election even under the voting structure that the Republicans desired.

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House Opens – Toss-Up/Leans

By Jim Ellis

April 15, 2020 — The open-seat count has increased to 43, with 31 coming from the minority Republican column. The number of competitive opens, however, at this point in the cycle is likely just nine, as 34 of the incumbent-less seats fall into either the Safe/Likely Democratic (12) column or Safe/Likely Republican (22) category. Today, we look at the competitive open seats.

Toss-Up

• CA-25: The vacant Palmdale/Simi Valley seat heads to a special election on May 12 in north Los Angeles County. State Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and Republican retired Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia (R) advanced from the special primary into the stand-alone mail-in special general. Regardless of the outcome on May 12, these two candidates will advance into the November general election to determine who will represent the politically marginal district in the next Congress.
   The special election has moved from “Lean Democratic” into the “Toss-up” category as a result of recent polling that projects Garcia owning a small lead and because of the partisan turnout numbers in the regular primary. The latter statistic actually found more Republicans voting than Democrats.

• GA-7: In 2018, this Atlanta suburban seat featured the closest raw vote margin in the nation, as incumbent Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) defeated state legislative staff member Carolyn Bourdeaux by just 419 votes. This year, with Rep. Woodall retiring, Bourdeaux returns but must top five other Democratic candidates including a state senator, state representative, and former Fulton County commission chairman. Therefore, the May 19 Democratic primary, now moved to June 9, will be competitive and the possibility of advancing to an Aug. 11 runoff election certainly exists.
   Republicans may be more likely to move into a runoff than the Democrats, however. Seven candidates are in the field, only one of who is an elected official. More on this race as it develops, but we will probably see tight elections in both primaries and almost assuredly in the general election.

Lean Democratic

• IA-2: In a 2020 open-seat election in this southeastern Iowa congressional district, the Republican challenge is at least as difficult as opposing seven-term incumbent David Loebsack (D-Iowa City), who is now retiring. Democrats have already coalesced around ex-state senator Rita Hart (D-Wheatland), a soybean farmer and former educator from Clinton County.
   In 2018, Hart was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor on the ticket that businessman Fred Hubbell lost in a close race to Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). It is an unusual situation when an incumbent party must defend an open seat and winds up with an unopposed candidate in the primary, but that is what has occurred here.
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