Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Trump Stirs Controversy in Florida; Fong Saga Continues in California; Republicans Choose CO-4 Candidate; New Jersey Primary Challenge

By Jim Ellis — Monday, April 1, 2024

House

Florida Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Tampa)

FL-15: Rep. Lee’s New Opponent — Former President Trump may have ignited a hornets’ nest when he called for a MAGA candidate to come forward to oppose GOP freshman Rep. Laurel Lee (R-Tampa). While that has yet to happen, the controversy within the Republican base may have encouraged a new Democrat to come forward in what is a competitive district. Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp (D) announced on Friday that he will enter the Democratic primary and immediately becomes the favorite for the party nomination.

Trump targeted Rep. Lee because she was the only member of the Florida Republican delegation to endorse Gov. Ron DeSantis against the former president in this year’s national campaign. Florida’s 15th District carries an R+7 rating from the FiveThirtyEight data organization. However, Trump won the district by only a 51-48 percent margin in the 2020 presidential election.

CA-20: Appellate Court to Hear Fong Ballot Status — The Vince Fong ballot saga is not yet over. You may remember because former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R) resigned from the House at the California candidate filing deadline, the Secretary of State disqualified Fong from running for Congress because he was already certified as a candidate for state Assembly to remain in his seat there. California election law prohibits candidates from running for more than one office simultaneously and the withdrawal deadline had already expired.

Fong sued over the decision and the court awarded him the congressional ballot line. Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) appealed the ruling, however, and arguments will be heard this week. Therefore, though Assemblyman Fong has qualified for both the special and regular general elections for the congressional seat, an adverse appellate court ruling could send this succession election into political chaos.

CO-4: Republicans Choose Caretaker Candidate — Late last week, the local Republican committee formed to choose a special election nominee for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District special election to replace resigned Rep. Ken Buck (R) chose a candidate who agreed not to run for the regular term. The move is a break for US Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt), switching over from District 3, and the 10 other candidates in the regular Republican primary.

The committee chose former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez as their special election candidate. He will be favored to win the upcoming special election which is held concurrently with the regular primary on June 25.

Lopez, a former state director for the Small Business Administration, will be favored against the Democratic nominee who will be chosen later today. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates CO-4 as R+26. Former President Donald Trump won the seat 58-39 percent in the 2020 presidential election.

States

New Jersey: Court Rejects Party County Line Balloting — New Jersey is one of the few remaining states where the county political parties have substantial power. What makes them strong is endorsing candidates in the primary and providing them extremely favorable ballot placements to the point where opponents are listed on separate ballot pages.

Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), running for the Senate, filed suit against the practice and the federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to halt the practice. While Kim is now becoming the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic Senate nomination since First Lady Tammy Murphy exited the race and Sen. Bob Menendez announced that he is not seeking the party nomination, his legal move will likely create a more even playing field for down-ballot races. This will probably become a major factor in changing how New Jersey primaries are run.

Christie Says No to No Labels; Florida, South Carolina Redistricting; Quick Candidate Filing in New Hampshire

By Jim Ellis — Friday, March 29, 2024

President

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) says no to No Labels. / Photo by Gage Skidmore

No Labels: Christie Says No — The No Labels Party is seemingly having a difficult time either choosing a presidential nominee or having someone accept their offer to run on their ballot line. A story emerged that former New Jersey governor and ex-presidential candidate Chris Christie (R), after being in negotiations with No Labels, has decided not to pursue entering the 2024 presidential general election as this party’s standard bearer.

Christie, in announcing his decision, said “I also believe that if there is not a pathway to win and if my candidacy in any way, shape or form would help Donald Trump become president again, then it is not the way forward.”

The No Labels membership has voted to field a presidential ticket, but so far, the leadership has not brought forth a national candidate pairing.

House

Florida Redistricting: Federal Judicial Panel Rejects Plaintiffs’ Arguments — A three-judge federal panel has rejected a lawsuit claiming that the Sunshine State congressional map violates the 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution. The ruling’s result means that the current plan will remain in place.

The Florida map, from which the district electorates chose 20 Republicans and eight Democrats, is the Republicans’ strongest, nationally. Therefore, not changing this plan boosts GOP chances of maintaining their small majority.

SC-1: District Looks to Stand — With the South Carolina candidate filing deadline upon us on April 1 and the US Supreme Court so far not ruling on the redistricting case before them, the original three-judge panel has taken action. The federal jurists who initially declared the Palmetto State’s 1st District (Rep. Nancy Mace-R) a racial gerrymander ruled yesterday that the current configuration can stand for the 2024 election. The panel acted because SCOTUS has failed to issue their decision after hearing oral arguments and considering that the filing deadline is Monday.

The fact that the high court has not yet ruled suggests that the district will stand. Though the lawsuit was targeted to the racial complexion of the 1st District, changing this seat will invariably alter at least one other. South Carolina has seven districts that are split in in a 6R:1D ratio.

NH-2: First Candidate Announcement — A day after six-term New Hampshire US Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton) announced that she will not seek re-election, a former gubernatorial nominee came forward to declare for the seat. Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D), who held now-Gov. Chris Sununu (R) to an initial 49-47 percent victory in 2016, officially threw his hat into the congressional political ring.

New Hampshire’s 2nd is a politically marginal district that leans Democratic. Republicans will certainly contest the seat, but the quick Van Ostern move suggests he will become the early favorite not only for the Democratic nomination, but to hold the seat in November.

The New Hampshire filing deadline is not until June 14, so potential candidates have considerable time to make their decisions. Crowded fields are expected in both parties, but possibly less so for the Democrats now that Van Ostern has declared his intentions so quickly.

Figures Records Major Lead in Alabama Runoff; New Challenger in AZ-2; Rep. Kuster to Retire; Clear Leader Emerges in North Dakota

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, March 28, 2024

House

Former Obama Justice Department official Shomari Figures.

AL-2: Figures Records Major Lead in New Runoff Poll — Impact Research conducted a research study for the upcoming April 2 Democratic runoff election in Alabama’s new 2nd Congressional District anchored in the Montgomery and Mobile areas. The survey (March 14-18; 500 likely AL-2 Democratic runoff voters; interactive voice response system and text) sees former Obama Justice Department official Shomari Figures, who finished first in the March 5 primary with 43.5 percent of the vote, leading state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Montgomery) by a whopping 59-24 percent margin.

The eventual Democratic nominee will be a heavy favorite in the general election. President Joe Biden carried this newly configured district with a 56-43 percent vote spread in 2020. The state’s congressional map was redrawn to comply with the US Supreme Court ruling in the Alabama racial gerrymandering case.

AZ-2: McCarthy Opponent Draws Primary Challenge — Freshman Arizona Rep. Eli Crane (R-Oro Valley), who is one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, has drawn a primary opponent. Yavapai County Supervisor Jack Smith (R) announced yesterday that he would follow through with a challenge to Crane after he filed a campaign committee weeks ago with the Federal Election Commission.

The 2nd Congressional District of Arizona covers the state’s northeastern sector and then stretches into Maricopa County, in and around the Phoenix metro area. The seat is safely Republican, so the true battle will be in the GOP primary scheduled for July 30.

NH-2: Rep. Kuster to Retire — Six-term New Hampshire US Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton) announced yesterday that she will not seek re-election next year. Her departure paves the way for a competitive primary and general election season. Kuster averaged 53.3 percent of the vote in her six victorious elections, dropping below 50 percent in 2016 (49.8 percent) while scoring her strongest vote of 55.8 percent in 2022. She was first elected in 2012, defeating then-Rep. Charlie Bass (R) in that year’s general election.

NH-2 becomes the 49th open seat heading into the next election. Kuster becomes the 25th House Democrat not to seek another term. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the western New Hampshire seat as D+2, and the Daily Kos Elections site ranks NH-2 as the 21st-most vulnerable district in the Democratic Conference. President Biden, however, recorded a 54-45 percent victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020, thus exceeding the typical Democratic performance in this swing seat.

ND-AL: Clear Leader Emerges — As candidate filing in North Dakota closed, the race for the open at-large congressional district is becoming clearer. Former state Sen. Tom Campbell (R), viewed as a strong contender, decided not to file for the seat just after outgoing Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced his Republican primary endorsement of state Public Utilities Commissioner Julie Fedorchak.

It appears that Fedorchak is becoming the favorite for the nomination. With the FiveThirtyEight data organization rating North Dakota as R+37 and former President Trump carrying the seat with a 65-32 percent margin, winning the Republican primary is typically tantamount to claiming the seat in the November election.

Three-term Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-Bismarck) is running for governor. In addition to Fedorchak, former state Rep. Rick Becker and farmer and retired Air Force veteran Alex Balazs comprise the open-seat GOP primary field. For the Democrats, educator and 2022 Public Utilities Commission nominee Trygve Hammer is unopposed for the party nomination.

RFK Jr.’s VP Choice; Swing State Data; Casey’s Lead Diminishing; Cruz Polls Show Tight Texas Race

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, March 27, 2024

President

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (I)

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: VP Choice — Yesterday presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (I) announced that wealthy entrepreneur Nicole Shanahan, the founder of the ClearAccessIP legal technology company that she later sold, will be his vice presidential running mate. Shanahan is, like Kennedy, an environmental activist. She contributed $4 million to his campaign to help finance the Super Bowl ad that the Kennedy campaign ran to emphasize his family history. In the 2020 presidential race, Shanahan contributed to Democratic candidates Pete Buttigieg and Marianne Williamson.

Kennedy has qualified for the ballot in the state of Wisconsin but may have to re-start his petition drive in Nevada. RFK Jr. is reportedly qualified or in strong position to do so in eight states: Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, and now Wisconsin. He may have problems in Nevada, however. The submitted petitions may be disqualified because Kennedy did not list a vice presidential running mate, which is a requirement under Nevada election law.

Of the eight states in which his name so far will appear, four are critical swing-state battlegrounds. Therefore, the Kennedy candidacy could affect the final result in the highly competitive entities of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

Morning Consult: Releases Latest Swing State Data — The Morning Consult organization released the latest data on their continuing swing state tracking project. This iteration shows improvement for President Joe Biden as he records a one-point edge in Wisconsin and is tied in Pennsylvania and Michigan. The tracking polls were conducted from October through March, and regularly surveyed at least 437 registered voters from each of the seven tested states.

The sampling universes in the remaining four states, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina, continue to support former President Donald Trump. Unless one of the tied states (Michigan or Pennsylvania) falls Trump’s way, he cannot win a majority in the Electoral College even though he continues to poll ahead in the majority of swing states.

Senate

Pennsylvania: Casey’s Lead Diminishing — Two new polls are suggesting that the Pennsylvania Senate race is getting closer. Susquehanna Research just released a statewide survey completed in early March (Feb. 27-March 5; 450 likely Pennsylvania voters; live interview) that projects Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) to be leading former hedge fund CEO David McCormick (R) by a 48-42 percent margin. The result is virtually the same as the firm found in January (Casey leading 46-42 percent), but considerably different than the 12-point Casey advantage they detected in their survey from 10 months ago.

Emerson College, polling for The Hill newspaper (March 10-13; 1,000 registered Pennsylvania voters; multiple sampling techniques), sees an even tighter 52-48 percent margin when the undecided respondents are pushed for an answer.

While the current tendencies appear to give McCormick some momentum, the voter history, and legacy of the Casey family (aside from Sen. Casey winning three US Senate terms, the incumbent’s father, Bob Casey, Sr., served two terms as governor and eight years as attorney general) suggest upending the senator remains a very tall order.

Texas: Cruz’s Zig Zag Polling Pattern — The latest Texas statewide survey finds Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) leading US Rep. Colin Allred (D-Dallas) only by a relatively small margin. Marist College (March 18-21; 1,117 registered Texas voters; multiple sampling techniques) projects Sen. Cruz holding a 51-45 percent advantage over Allred. A month ago, the University of Texas found the senator holding a 12-point lead. In January, Emerson College saw Cruz claiming only a two-point edge.

It would not be surprising to see a similar zig-zag pattern continue through the bulk of the election period. Because Sen. Cruz’s favorability numbers tend to be below average for a two-term incumbent, the issue matrix within this campaign cycle, particularly in Texas, will favor the Republican office holder.

Though Rep. Allred is certainly a credible Democratic challenger it is difficult to see Sen. Cruz, or any Lone Star State Republican, losing. With President Biden leading the Democratic ticket and having to defend his energy and border policy stances in a state where his party hasn’t scored a major statewide win since 1994, it increases the difficulty factor for a Democratic upset at all political levels. Therefore, expect to see differing polls throughout the campaign cycle, but the actual election will likely culminate in a Cruz victory margin of at least five percentage points.

New Jersey First Lady Suspends Campaign; Gov. Justice Up in West Virginia Poll; Tight Voting Results in California; Michigan Senate Candidate Moves to House Race

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Senate

Tammy Murphy, New Jersey’s First Lady

New Jersey: First Lady Suspends Campaign — New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy (D), who had been fighting with Rep. Andy Kim (D-Moorestown) over county Democratic Party endorsements that yield favorable ballot placements, surprisingly has ended her campaign. Murphy said she didn’t want to spend money attacking another Democrat when the funds could be used to help defeat former President Donald Trump.

The more likely reason for her withdrawal decision is failing to see a viable victory path after falling behind Rep. Kim in early polling. Additionally, Kim’s lawsuit against the state for the county ballot placement system that awards a favorable line position might well be successful, thus derailing the advantage she gained by winning endorsements in several entities. The development makes Rep. Kim a prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to winning the general election.

West Virginia: Gov. Justice Way Up in GOP Primary Poll — Emerson College, polling for WOWK-13 television station in the Charleston-Huntington market (March 19-21; 735 likely West Virginia Republican primary voters; multiple sampling techniques), sees Gov. Jim Justice holding a commanding 54-17 percent lead over US Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) with the West Virginia primary now seven weeks away on May 14. Without incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the race, the eventual GOP nominee becomes a heavy favorite to convert the seat in the general election.

In the governor’s race, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) also enjoys a GOP primary advantage according to the same poll. Morrisey holds a 33-16-14-6 percent advantage over businessman Chris Miller, former state Delegate Moore Capito, and Secretary of State Mac Warner, respectively. Miller is the son of US Rep. Carol Miller (R-Huntington), while Capito is Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s (R-WV) son. Here, too, the eventual Republican nominee will be a virtual lock to win the general election.

House

California: CA-45 Set, Down to One Vote in North — With still 17 days remaining in the California election certification process, another congressional finalist has clinched a general election ballot position. With virtually all of the votes finally tabulated, Garden Grove City Councilwoman Kim Nguyen-Penaloza yesterday ended her fight for the second qualifying position, conceding the vote to attorney Derek Tran. The race came down to a spread of just 366 votes between the two candidates, or a percentage spread of 15.9 – 15.6.

US Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Orange County), on the ballot for a third term, easily captured the first general election ballot position with a 54.9 percent showing. While Rep. Steel is in good position to begin the general election campaign, the 45th CD leans Democratic at D+5 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization. Therefore, plan for a highly contested congressional battle here in political prime time.

A few more votes were released in the nip-and-tuck open 16th Congressional District and San Mateo County Supervisor and ex-state Sen. Joe Simitian (D) saw his lead over Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) shrink from four votes to only one, 30,229 to 30,228. The eventual second-place qualifier faces former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) who locked down first place with 38,464 votes or 21.1 percent of the jungle primary total. Should Simitian and Low end in a flat tie, both would advance into the general election, thus leading to a three-way general election campaign.

MI-8: Senate Candidate Moves to House Race — State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder (R), who was the first person to declare for the open Senate race after incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D) announced that she would retire, never saw her campaign generate excitement or significant support. Therefore, Snyder announced that she is ending her Senate quest and will instead enter the Republican primary for the open 8th Congressional District.

There, Snyder will join two time congressional candidate and former news anchor Paul Junge in the GOP primary. Snyder is also not the first candidate to switch from the Senate race to this congressional contest. Earlier, State Board of Education president Pamela Pugh (D) made the change soon after six-term incumbent Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) announced that he would not seek re-election.

The 8th District will feature a hard-fought and tough election cycle. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the central Michigan 8th CD as R+1. President Joe Biden carried the district with a slight 50.3 – 48.2 percent margin.

Rep. Gallagher to Leave in April;
A Squeaker in CA-16; Party Chair Advances in Colorado;
Santos Leaves GOP

By Jim Ellis — Monday, March 25, 2024

House

Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay)

WI-8: Rep. Gallagher to Resign in April — In February, four-term US Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay) announced that he would not seek a fifth term this year. On Friday, Gallagher reiterated his plan to leave Congress, and will do so earlier than expected. The congressman indicated he will resign from the House on April 19.

Leaving at that point in April does not allow the state to replace him with an early special election to fill the balance of the term instead of waiting until the November election. Therefore, Republicans will be another seat down until the regular general. Gallagher becomes the sixth House member to resign during this session of Congress in addition to Rep. George Santos (R-NY), who was expelled from the body.

CA-16: 1, 2, 3, & 4 — The battle to claim the second general election position in California’s open 16th Congressional District continues to drag on, and now the election officials are determining if provisional and late arriving ballots should be added to the aggregate count. An estimated 400-plus ballots are in this category.

The current standing finds San Mateo County Supervisor and former state Sen. Joe Simitian (D) now leading Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) by a mere four votes — 30,222 to 30,218. This small number is an increase for Simitian from his previous one-vote edge. Previously, Low held two and three vote leads from a pair of released counts.

Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) has already clinched the first general election finalist position. The Secretary of State has until April 12 to certify all March 5 primary elections and it is likely determining the second place finisher here will consume the entire time allotment. Whoever is declared the loser once all ballots are tabulated will obviously call for a recount. Should the race for second place end in a tie, both contenders would advance into the general election against Liccardo. Incumbent Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Atherton) is retiring.

CO-5: State Chairman Advances to GOP Primary — Local Republican delegates in Colorado’s open 5th District met over the weekend in their nominating convention. With Rep. Douglas Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) retiring, the seat becomes open for the first time in 18 years. Counting his time in the state legislature, Lamborn will leave elective office at the beginning of next year after serving 30 consecutive years.

The delegates, with a 70.4 percent vote, propelled Colorado Republican Party chairman Dave Williams into the general election. A candidate must receive at least 30 percent of the vote to automatically advance. Falling below the lower threshold requires a candidate to access the ballot by submitting 1,500 valid petition signatures. Therefore, the only other announced GOP candidate for the seat, radio talk show host and former two time congressional candidate Jeff Crank, must circulate petitions in order to compete in the June 25 Republican primary.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates CO-5 as R+18. Then-President Donald Trump carried the seat in 2020 with a 53.2 – 43.1 percent majority vote. Therefore, the eventual Republican nominee will become a definitive favorite for the general election. With the candidate filing deadline fast approaching on April 1, seven Democrats are announced contenders.

NY-1: Santos Leaves GOP — After declaring earlier this month that he would challenge freshman Republican Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Suffolk County) in the GOP primary, on Friday the expelled Congressman George Santos announced he would leave the Republican Party and campaign for the 1st District congressional seat as an Independent.

In a written statement, Santos said, “The Republican Party continues to lie and swindle its voter base. I, in good conscience, cannot affiliate myself with a party that stands for nothing and falls for everything.” It is unlikely that Santos will be a factor in the general election for the Independence Party, or any other ballot line. Any votes he does attract, however, would likely come from LaLolta’s base, thus allowing the eventual Democratic nominee, either 2020 congressional nominee Nancy Goroff or former CNN news anchor John Avlon, to potentially gain support from these disaffected Republicans.

Nevada Poll Showing Tight Races; Menendez May Not Be Done; Wisconsin Looks Close;
New Hampshire Governor’s Race

By Jim Ellis — Friday, March 22, 2024

Senate

Nevada: New Margin of Error Poll — Prolific pollster Emerson College also tested the Nevada electorate and finds the Senate race already becoming a dead heat. The survey results (March 12-15; 1,000 likely Nevada voters; multiple sampling techniques) see Sen. Jacky Rosen (D) leading Afghan War veteran Sam Brown (R) by a slight 41-39 percent split, well within the polling margin of error. In the presidential race, former President Donald Trump slips past President Joe Biden 44-41 percent, a pattern that has been evident for weeks in the Silver State.

Possibly the most encouraging news for Republicans, which helps explain the GOP presidential performance in the poll, is the fact that Hispanics, traditionally heavy Democratic voters, would break for Biden in only a 44-39 percent clip. Hispanics account for just over 30 percent of the Nevada population according to US Census figures. Therefore, this group could become a deciding factor in how the state eventually votes.

New Jersey: Menendez May Not Be Done — While indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D) has already announced he will not seek re-election as a Democrat this year, the door is apparently open for him to file as an Independent. He would have until June 4 to file 1,000 valid New Jersey voter petition signatures in order to obtain a ballot position.

Though his chances of winning the 2024 general election as an Independent are virtually nil, maintaining candidate status would allow him to use his still substantial campaign funds to pay his legal expenses. At the end of 2023, Sen. Menendez reports having just under $6.1 million cash-on-hand in his campaign account.

Wisconsin: Surprising Poll Result — Perhaps the most surprising recent poll comes from the Badger State of Wisconsin where Emerson College already sees the Senate race in much closer terms than most would have surmised. With Republicans only recently witnessing businessman Eric Hovde come to the forefront to declare his candidacy, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) had, for most of the election cycle, been forecast as close to being a sure winner.

The new Emerson poll (March 14-18; 1,000 likely Wisconsin voters; multiple sampling techniques) projects Sen. Baldwin as holding only a 45-42 percent margin, this while Trump posts a consistent three point lead over Biden whether on a direct head-to-head question or when most of the projected independent and minor party candidates are added to the questionnaire.

At this point, the Wisconsin Senate race has been regarded as a second-tier challenge opportunity for the GOP. If poll results like this become consistent over the course of time, the race could move into the top tier and attract greater resources. The Wisconsin electorate has been known for routinely producing close election outcomes.

Governor

New Hampshire: Democrat Releases Poll — Democratic Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington released the results of her GBAO Strategies research study (released March 20; Feb. 22-26; 600 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters; live interview & text) that finds her trailing former Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig 37-25 percent in the statewide Democratic primary. When typical push questions are asked, Warmington moves ahead, thus suggesting that this race has the potential of becoming close.

The New Hampshire state primary is not until Sept. 10, so much time remains for the contest to gel. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is not seeking a fifth term, so the New Hampshire governor’s contest will be highly competitive in the general election.