Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Politics of Scheduling

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2019 — Earlier, it was reported that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is going to re-schedule the special election to replace resigned Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau), and now we have more information.

At first glance, we see an instance where a state election law conflicts with a federal statute, which national government officials apparently brought to the governor’s attention after he made public the original voting schedule. Wisconsin special election law creates a 28-day period between special primary and general, while the federal MOVE Act, designed to provide some uniform structure for overseas and military voters stationed abroad, mandates at least 45 days be placed between elections.

The governor is reportedly looking at two scenarios, and both will move the special cycle to a much later time frame. Instead of Jan. 27, the original special general date (the special primary was slated for Dec. 30), the new general will likely either be concurrent with the April 7 presidential and statewide primary, or May 5. Due to the federal law requirements and the current state election calendar, the governor cannot schedule both the special primary and general to coincide with the already-set state election timetable.

Now for the politics: Wisconsin has a regular statewide election in the early part of the even-numbered year where judges and many local officials are elected in addition to other selected officeholder positions. In this particular April 7 election, the same day as the presidential primary, Republican state Supreme Court Judge Dan Kelly is running for a full 10-year term. Key Democratic leaders counseled the governor to schedule the election early so a large Republican turnout from a strong Republican congressional district did not hurt the party’s effort to unseat the high court judge.

On the other hand, Democratic turnout is likely to be very large on April 7 because voters are coming to participate in the presidential primary. Using this reasoning, the Democrats’ chances of upsetting the GOP in the special congressional election would be much greater even though the seat has performed well for the Republicans throughout this decade.

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Underestimating Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 3, 2019 — One of the major political campaign stories of the week is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) releasing his third quarter financial receipts, which exceeded $25.2 million for the previous 12-week period. The only other candidate to publicize his most recent financial information at this point in time is Mayor Pete Buttigieg who reports raising $19 million for the quarter.

While these numbers are high and continue to demonstrate strong, broad-based support, we still do not know the amounts that former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) will soon announce and are required to report by the Oct. 15 deadline.

Buttigieg makes the argument that this is his second consecutive outstanding quarter, which puts him at more than $51 million raised for the campaign. It appears Buttigieg has handled his money well, meaning he has adequate funding to compete in all of the early states. This is particularly true for Iowa, which hosts the first nominating on Feb. 3, and is of the utmost importance to his political survival in this national campaign.

But the Sanders campaign is our point of focus. Though his effort has been relatively quiet in the early going, the Sanders operation has concentrated upon and successfully secured their ground operation. This will prove a strong move once the actual voting begins.

In the 2016 campaign Sanders consistently under-polled. He was not predicted to do particularly well in Iowa, for example. Remember, in that contest Sanders fought Hillary Clinton to a virtual tie, forcing her to win a series of coin flips in selected precincts thus enabling her to declare a very slight statewide victory. For all intents and purposes, the Sanders performance created a virtual tie with Clinton and began to transform the contest into a one-on-one battle.

After Iowa, Sanders rolled into his New England backyard and the New Hampshire primary. Here we must recall that he garnered 60 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton, a landslide victory that dashed her inevitable nominee strategy.

When the candidates advanced to Nevada, the race cemented as a two-person contest. Though Sanders lost the Sliver State caucus, controversy arose when the Independent senator’s campaign claimed that the Democratic National Committee had changed the rules to disallow some of the Sanders’ outlying precinct delegates from casting their ballots.
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Collins Resigns; Thornberry to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

Oct. 2, 2019 — Reportedly planning to plead guilty to an insider trading charge after being indicted last year, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) resigned his seat in the House, officially informing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Monday of his intentions.

Despite having an indictment hanging over his head, Rep. Collins won a close re-election in NY-27 — normally a safe Republican upstate district that occupies all or parts of eight counties in the region’s rural area east of Buffalo and south of Rochester.

The congressman defeated Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island town supervisor, by a razor-thin 49.1 – 48.8 percent spread, a margin of just 1,087 votes. Clearly the indictment played a major role in the outcome being so close, as Collins’ re-election percentages were an identical 67.2 percent in 2014 and 2016 after unseating then-Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in the 2012 general election.

Anticipating an open seat or a weakened Collins seeking re-nomination, several Republicans had already announced their intentions to run. Two state senators, Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Rob Ortt (R-Lockport), are already in the race as is attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato. The 2018 Democratic nominee, McMurray, is also a declared candidate.

It is likely that other Republicans will jump into either the special election, if it is called, or the regular election now that it is an open seat race. It is also likely that Democratic leaders will make sure that McMurray has a clean shot for re-nomination in order to make him as strong as possible against a different GOP nominee.

The New York state primary is scheduled for June 23. The eventual GOP nominee should begin as a favorite to hold the seat.
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Qualifying Already Underway
For Upcoming Presidential Debates

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 1, 2019 — The Democratic National Committee had barely announced the new qualification requirements for the November and December presidential debates when three candidates immediately proved they met the polling requirement and several others reached the halfway point.

Not that there was any doubt that former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would be in the late year forums, but they have already clinched their podiums.

CNN, one of the sanctioned pollsters that the DNC recognizes for determining candidate support, released two studies in states whose electorates will vote in February. The surveys that SSRS, the CNN regular polling firm partner, conducted tested the electorates in both Nevada and South Carolina.

The new party rules require candidates to now earn three percent support, up from two percent, in four sanctioned surveys either nationally or within the first four voting states, those that party rules allow to hold their nominating event in February (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina). Another option allows a candidate to meet the polling requirement if he or she receives five percent in two of the first four voting states.

The CNN/SSRS Nevada poll (Sept. 22-26; 324 likely Nevada Democratic caucus attenders) is sanctioned even though the sample size is small. That being the case, the results find that the three top contenders lie in a statistical tie. Biden and Sen. Sanders each post 22 percent support, while Sen. Warren trails only by four points at 18 percent.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is next with five percent, a rather poor showing considering that Nevada is adjacent to her home state of California, but one that would alone give her one-half of the polling qualification requirement. She would need to reach five percent in just one other poll in a First Four state to meet the polling requirement in order to earn a debate podium spot in November and December.

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CA-50: Issa Announces

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 30, 2019 — As expected, former California congressman, Darrell Issa (R), announced late last week that he will enter the state’s 50th District jungle primary against indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), but the candidate situation is getting so convoluted it is difficult to “tell the players without a scorecard.”

Attending the announcement event with Issa last week were two other announced contenders for the seat, former Escondido mayor, Sam Abed, and current El Cajon mayor, Bill Wells. As part of the Issa declaration, both men announced that they will not become official candidates when the filing period opens and instead endorsed the former congressman.

Earlier in the month, Temecula City councilman and former mayor, Matt Rahn, also said he was leaving the race after being the first to announce. He attributed his decision to the political situation surrounding Rep. Hunter and the other candidates and potential candidates as simply being too convoluted.

Within the past two weeks, state Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) announced that he will run for the congressional seat, thus adding even more confusion to the political picture. Because California’s state Senate seats are bigger than congressional districts, Jones already represents about 88 percent of the 50th CD. Prior to winning his Senate seat in 2018 (meaning he does not risk the position to run for Congress because he has a four-year term), Jones served his allotted three terms in the state assembly and two different tours on the Santee City council.

Two other Republicans also remain in the race. Carl DeMaio is a former San Diego City councilman, ex-mayoral and congressional candidate. He came close to being elected mayor in a special election when then-incumbent and former congressman, Bob Filner (D), was forced to resign over a sexual harassment scandal in 2013. He then ran for the 52nd CD in 2014 and lost 52-48 percent to incumbent Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego). He is now a local radio talk show host.

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