Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Outer Banks Battle

By Jim Ellis

The late longtime North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones Jr. / Photo by Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Feb. 12, 2019 — The death of veteran North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-Farmville) on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019 — his 76th birthday — has sent the state’s 3rd District into a special election that will likely last all the way to Sep. 10, and the campaign will be unusually competitive.

Since the district was drawn in its current configuration in 2011, the Democrats have spent only an aggregate of $53,000 in challenging Rep. Jones. In 2018, he was unopposed. Two years earlier, Democratic nominee Ernest Reeves placed his name on the ballot but literally spent no money. During the four post-2010 census elections, Jones averaged 74.5 percent of the vote, and 66.0 percent when the uncontested campaign is removed from the configuration.

But, the special election campaign looks very different and will be the first truly competitive campaign in this part of eastern North Carolina since Jones unseated then-Rep. Martin Lancaster all the way back in 1994.

On Friday, candidate filing closed and no less than 26 Republicans, Democrats, and minor party candidates filed to run in the April 30 primary. With so many names on the ballot it is possible that both major parties could be forced into runoff elections even though North Carolina has only a 30 percent runoff rule.

For the Republicans, 17 individuals filed including a two-time primary opponent to Rep. Jones, three sitting state representatives, and the state Republican Party vice chair. But the Democrats, for the first time in more than two decades, have legitimate contenders in a district that should continually elect Republicans. The six-person Democratic field contains two former mayors, one of Greenville, the other New Bern, and two retired Marine Corps officers.

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With Brown Bowing Out,
Does That Mean Biden Will Begin?

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – not running for president

March 11, 2019 — Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, another of the potential Democratic presidential candidates who most observers thought would enter the race, is not.

His announcement late last week was a bit surprising considering his home state with 136 first-ballot delegates and 153 overall (the seventh largest state delegation at the Democratic National Convention) moved the primary to March 10, partially with the idea of giving him a boost.

Sen. Brown’s decision provides us a clue as to what else may happen, however. He, like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, basically said the reason for not becoming a candidate is that the victory path is not evident. The underlying conclusion is they obviously believe former Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race.

Though all three men (Biden, Bloomberg, and Brown) certainly must be considered liberals on the ideological scale, they are not part of the far-left faction that Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and others are attempting to attract. Therefore, if the Bloomberg and Brown paths are blocked, then it is Biden who is their most formidable impediment.

If the former vice president and Delaware senator enters the race, and some say he will do so early next month, is he a lock for the nomination? Polling indicates he would jump to the top of the current heap but would be nowhere close to the majority of delegate votes required to win the nomination on the first convention ballot. In four late February national polls of likely Democratic primary voters, Biden tops them all but with preference percentages of 27, 30, 29, and 31 – hardly dominating numbers.

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Bloomberg & Other Surprises

By Jim Ellis

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D)

March 8, 2019 — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision earlier this week not to enter the Democratic presidential race becomes the first major surprise move of the early campaign.

It was clearly expected that he would become a candidate. After all, he was talking about committing $500 million of his own money to the effort, he’d hired key campaign staff, designed a presidential campaign logo, and even organized an announcement tour beginning in his birthplace of Boston, Massachusetts.

Speculation continues to surround former Vice President Joe Biden’s decision regarding whether or not he may also ultimately decide to take a pass on the race; Bloomberg’s reasoning provides us a key clue that at least he thinks Biden will soon form a campaign.

So far, 11 Democrats have become candidates with two more filing exploratory committees. The pair remaining in pre-candidate status are Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

It is conceivable that one or both of the latter women could decide not to become candidates. Rep. Gabbard has run into organizational trouble, is being attacked for her foreign policy positions, and now has drawn serious primary opposition for her congressional seat. Just recently, state Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo) has earned public endorsements from former governors and key Hawaii Democratic Party leaders.

While many in the media cast Sen. Gillibrand as a top-tier candidate, she has gone nowhere since her exploratory announcement, failing so far to even break one percent in any released poll.

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2020 Democratic Presidential
Field Narrows by Three

By Jim Ellis

March 7, 2019 — Three prominent potential Democratic presidential candidates, almost in unison, just said they would not join the 2020 campaign. Two of the decisions were expected, but the third was a surprise.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had hired a staff, was in the process of designing a presidential campaign logo, and planning an announcement tour to begin in his birthplace city of Medford, Mass., said late Tuesday afternoon that he would not seek the presidency in 2020. Instead, he will devote his efforts to founding a new organization entitled, “Beyond Carbon,” with the goal of virtually ending America’s reliance on oil, gas, and coal by the year 2050. He said he believes, through this group, that he can best help to defeat President Trump.

Former secretary of state, US senator, First Lady, and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton also confirmed that she will not be a candidate next year but will remain active on the political scene. This result was more expected even though speculation had increased recently that she might again become a presidential candidate.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), another potential presidential candidate, announced that he will seek a third term in the Senate, which kills any chance of his entering the presidential campaign. His fate was virtually sealed when leaders of his own party, including Gov. Kate Brown (D-OR), refused to change Oregon election law to allow an individual to simultaneously run for more than one office.

The Bloomberg move could have an effect on the overall campaign and may be a signal that former Vice President Joe Biden will soon be entering the race. Reports suggest that Bloomberg believed his path to the party nomination involved appealing to the more centrist element of the Democratic Party, a segment where Biden is strong.

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Hickenlooper & Inslee:
Former Governor & Governor
Join Democratic Presidential Fray

By Jim Ellis

Left: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (Photo, Moritz Hager) Right: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

March 6, 2019 — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joined the Democratic presidential field over the weekend, following Washington Gov. Jay Inslee who jumped in last Friday. The pair became the 12th and 13th official Democratic presidential candidates, and the first governor and former governor to join the campaign.

But what are the paths to actual nomination for each man? Neither has high national name identification and both are from states moderate in size: Washington has 107 total Democratic National Convention delegates, and Colorado 80. This places them as the 14th and 17th largest states among the 57 voting entities that will comprise the Democratic delegate pool.

It’s hard to see a viable way to the nomination for Gov. Inslee. Without a strong geographical base or high name ID, the two-term Pacific Northwest governor is attempting to carve a niche for himself as the climate change candidate, but that is a space already heavily populated. Sen. Bernie Sanders in particular stresses the climate change issues as part of his portfolio, as do most of the other candidates at least to a degree.

It’s possible Inslee also doesn’t see much of a path for himself, which explains why he answered so vociferously that he is not ruling out running for a third term in his present position when asked during his announcement event. With almost two-thirds of the bound delegate votes likely being decided on or before March 17, 2020, Inslee will have plenty of time to pivot back into a governor’s race because the Washington candidate filing deadline doesn’t elapse until May of that year.

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PA-12 NOMINEE KELLER IMMEDIATELY HITS OPPONENT, PELOSI, SANDERS, CORTEZ

Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court (click on image to see full size)

By Jim Ellis

Pennsylvania state Rep. Fred Keller
(R-Mifflinburg)

March 5, 2019 — On Saturday, during a seven-hour marathon special district convention marked with controversy, the central Pennsylvania Republican delegates chose state Rep. Fred Keller (R-Mifflinburg) as the party nominee for 12th District Congressman Tom Marino’s (R-Williamsport) vacated seat. Marino resigned from the House at the end of January due to professional and health reasons.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) scheduled the replacement special election for May 21. Under Pennsylvania election law, the various political parties call a district convention or meeting for purposes of choosing a special election nominee. Originally, 24 potential Republican candidates expressed interest in running, but only 14 were successful in having their names placed into nomination before the 200-plus assembled delegates.

After Rep. Marino’s unexpected announcement, Democrats responded quickly and re-nominated their 2018 candidate, local college professor Marc Friedenberg, who advances into the special general election hoping to perform better than he did against Marino. In November, Friedenberg lost 66-34 percent while spending just over $90,000 on his federal campaign.

Saturday’s convention became controversial once the Club for Growth organization began sending mailers to the delegates attacking state Rep. Jeff Wheeland (R-Williamsport), over his record on tax issues as a legislator first elected in 2014. Prior to gathering in Williamsport, Wheeland appeared as the candidate most likely to become the delegates’ choice.

But, the convention was rocked when the representative’s stepson distributed a letter detailing how Wheeland abused he and his mother. The combination attack was enough to drive Wheeland from the race just before the fourth ballot, yielding the victory for Keller.

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THE UPCOMING NC-3 SPECIAL ELECTION;
WILL A REPUBLICAN PREVAIL IN
A STATE THAT LEANS DEMOCRATIC?

North Carolina Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

March 1, 2019 — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced the special election schedule for his state’s 3rd Congressional District, vacant since 13-term incumbent Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) passed away on Feb. 10.

Candidate filing will close March 8, a short official period largely because eight individuals have already declared their candidacies. The partisan primary elections will be held April 30, followed by runoff elections, if necessary, on July 9. A secondary election will occur if no candidate receives at least 30 percent of the vote in their respective nomination election.

Should all parties nominate on April 30, then the special general will move to July 9. Otherwise, the final vote will be held Sept. 10. It is presumed that the State Board of Elections members, who have the power to schedule the succeeding District 9 election because no general election winner was certified, will follow the governor’s lead on Monday and schedule that special election within these same schedule guidelines.

With six Republicans, including three sitting state representatives already in the race, and more likely to come, the chances of the GOP being forced to hold a runoff election are extremely high.

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