Author Archives: Jim Ellis

CA-25: Pondering Questions

By Jim Ellis

California Congressional District 25

March 24, 2020 — Political observers are asking many questions about the special election in California’s 25th Congressional District, the seat that former Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned late last year, particularly after seeing a new ballot test poll enter the public domain.

In the special California primary held on March 3, a dozen candidates, six Democrats and six Republicans, battled one another either to secure majority support or one of two runoff positions for the May 12 runoff vote. Under California election law, if a candidate attracts majority support, the individual would be elected outright to serve the balance of the current term. If not, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to a runoff election. It is the latter scenario that occurred here.

In addition to the special election, a second vote was held on March 3 for the regular succeeding term. In this contest, 13 candidates were on the ballot, the 12 aforementioned contenders along with Independent Otis Lee Cooper.

Not surprisingly, the two individuals finishing first in the special election also qualified for the general election. They are: freshman state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and defense contractor and Iraq War veteran Mike Garcia (R). The election totals in the two contests are somewhat different, however.

The final totals are still not tabulated. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 313,739 ballots statewide remain uncounted with virtually no progress being made last week. In the 25th District, approximately 5,500 votes await counting in order to be added to the published totals. The final tabulation will not change the first- and second-place finisher status, however.

Interestingly, despite the special and regular vote being held at the same time and on the same ballot, almost 4,000 more people voted in the special election than in the regular primary. Percentage-wise, approximately 39 percent of the district’s registered voters cast a ballot in the special while 38 percent did so for the regular primary. Statewide, the turnout measured just under 45 percent of the registered voters for the regular primary that included a contested Super Tuesday presidential vote.

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Montana’s Competitive Races

By Jim Ellis

Montana

March 23, 2020 — Today, Montana has the reputation of being a Republican state, and GOP candidates have won more races here than their Democratic counterparts of late, but the latter party is far from moribund in Big Sky Country. As an at-large political domain with a sizable number of statewide offices, Democrats have had plenty of opportunities to win.

Montana holds its major statewide races in the presidential election year as opposed to the mid-term. In the state’s seven major statewide offices, Republicans currently enjoy a 5-2 edge, though Democrats hold the governorship and a US Senate office. In the 2012 election, however, the outcome was completely reversed as Democrats took five of the same seven positions.

With this background, a just-released research survey from Public Policy Polling (March 12-13; 903 registered Montana voters) tested a newly formed US Senate race between first-term Sen. Steve Daines (R) and Gov. Steve Bullock (D), along with the open at-large congressional contest. Both parties have contested primaries for the House, but state auditor and former US Senate nominee Matt Rosendale (R) and former state representative and 2018 congressional nominee Kathleen Williams (D) appear to be the favorites to win their respective party nominations.

The state is also hosting an open governor’s race, but the PPP poll did not test that campaign. The progressive left group End Citizens United sponsored the Public Policy Polling survey, and they sampled a universe that contained 37 percent self-identified Republicans, 32 percent Democrats, and 31 percent who describe themselves as Independents. It’s difficult to compare this sampling universe with the actual state electorate because Montana does not have party registration and the state features an open primary system.

That being said, the ballot test finds Sen. Daines and Gov. Bullock locked in a 47-47 percent tie, with an almost identical conclusion for a hypothetical pairing between Rosendale and Williams (45-45 percent).

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The Primary Analysis

By Jim Ellis

March 19, 2020 — The COVID-19 virus is causing obvious problems worldwide, and it’s changing the United States’ electoral system. Several states all with primaries on or before June 23 have already moved their date or are discussing such an option.

First, a total of six states already have held primary events and three general election cards are set. On March 3, full state nominating elections were held in Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. Illinois followed suit on March 17. Ohio was also supposed to also vote on March 17 but halted their election at the last minute and moved to June 2. Four of the six early voting states hold runoffs, and three will host some significant secondary nominating elections.

With a 30-percent runoff law, North Carolina only has one congressional finalist election, the open 11th District Republican battle between former Haywood County Republican Party chair Lynda Bennett and investor Madison Cawthorn. Texas has a 50 percent runoff law, and the state will feature a Democratic runoff in the Senate race along with five Democratic congressional runoffs and seven on the Republican side. Though Arkansas requires 50 percent to win a party nomination outright, no federal runoff elections are necessary. Therefore, we have full sets of general election nominees for all regular 2020 races in Arkansas, California, and Illinois.

News came from Alabama yesterday when Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that the state is transferring the March 31 runoff all the way to July 14. The significantly longer cycle will potentially change outcomes, the Senate race in particular.

As you will remember, former US Attorney General and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions finished second in the March 3 primary, one point behind retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Until yesterday, the two were heading for deciding the nomination at the end of the month. All polling was suggesting a Tuberville victory. Now, with almost four full months until the runoff, this contest has the potential of changing. Sessions will now have adequate time to alter his campaign message and has the opportunity to rebound and capture the nomination. The winner faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

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Biden Wins Easily; Lipinski Loses

By Jim Ellis

Former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden (D)

March 18, 2020 — In a night that was originally scheduled to have two full state primaries and two stand-alone presidential contests that would determine if a Democratic candidate could reach majority support on the first ballot, last night’s results proved somewhat anticlimactic.

Voters in Arizona, Florida, and Illinois cast their ballots, with only the latter state conducting its full primary. Ohio, which also had its statewide primary scheduled for yesterday, postponed their vote likely to June 2 because of COVID-19 virus precaution.

As expected, former vice president Joe Biden wrapped up three easy victories, beginning with capturing the Florida primary with a whopping 62-23 percent margin over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) from a Democratic electorate that topped 1.72 million voters. The total includes the early votes, even though the outcome of this stand-alone primary election became a foregone conclusion just after Super Tuesday.

The vote totals were somewhat closer in Illinois, but still a landslide victory for Biden. The former vice president captured 59 percent of the Land of Lincoln Democratic vote as compared to 36 percent for Sen. Sanders. The turnout here was just slightly over 1.5 million, but the entire statewide and district office campaigns were also on this ballot, which helps accounts for what appears to be a fairly large turnout.

In Arizona, the race was much closer, as Biden’s victory margin rather surprisingly dropped to 44-31 percent with approximately 12 percent of the ballots outstanding. The turnout is not expected to reach 600,000 when all the ballots are counted. A quarter of the Arizona electorate voted for one of the also-ran candidates, which compares to 15 percent doing so in Florida and just five percent in Illinois.

Delegate wise, Biden looks to have captured about 159 Florida delegate votes with Sen. Sanders only clinching 60 bound first ballot delegates. The Illinois total projects a 95-60 Biden advantage, while in Arizona the total split looks to be approximately 39-28 if the present pattern continues. Without the Ohio primary taking place, the total delegate universe yesterday was 441, with Biden unofficially clinching 293 of them, or 66 percent of the March 17 bound first-ballot votes.

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Primary Day; Ohio on Hold

By Jim Ellis

Ohio’s Congressional Districts

March 17, 2020 — Today is a defining day for the Democratic presidential primary but it looks like former vice president Joe Biden will easily march toward the party nomination without participation from Ohio.

Originally, the Buckeye State primary was planned for March 10, but then re-scheduled for today, March 17. Yesterday, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) requested a judge stay the primary election in response to the COVID-19 virus but was turned down. Then, in a statement late last night, the state health director stepped in to halt the primary voting process under a statewide emergency order. The governor and secretary of state are working on ways to increase mail and absentee voting, but how and when people are supposed to vote remains uncertain.

This means only Arizona, Florida, and Illinois voters are casting their ballots today. State officials in each of those places are moving forward with voting as planned. Of this group, only Illinois, like Ohio, is scheduled to hold its state primary.

Regardless of Ohio not being in the mix, at the end of voting this day, Biden will effectively become the Democratic presidential nominee, but not yet officially. Perhaps more importantly, at least as it pertains to Ohio, is what happens to the candidates running for the down-ballot offices.

There is no US Senate race in Ohio this year, but all 16 congressional seats are on the ballot as well as 115 electoral contests for the state legislature (16 state Senate seats; all 99 state House seats), and a large number of local offices.

The confusion surrounding the primary could well become the foundation for eventual lawsuits from some of the candidates who may eventually lose close votes. Therefore, the decision to postpone could result in a very long primary, and post-primary cycle.

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