Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Mississippi Governor Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state flag

Aug. 8, 2019 — Voters in the Magnolia State of Mississippi went to the polls to choose open race nominees for the first time in eight years on Tuesday. Incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited and ineligible to seek re-election in 2019.

As expected, Attorney General Jim Hood easily dispatched seven Democratic opponents and captured the party nomination outright with a 69 percent statewide win. Hood, often called “the most successful Democratic politician in the South” because of winning four consecutive statewide elections as Mississippi’s AG, scored majority support in all but six of the 80 reporting counties. At this writing, two counties still had not released their vote counts.

The Republican side is headed for an Aug. 27 run-off, as Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who earned Gov. Bryant’s backing for this election campaign, looks to be falling just a point short of securing the nomination. Of the estimated outstanding votes, Reeves would have to garner about 81 percent in order to win outright. Since his strongest county, tiny Coahoma, gave him 67.5 percent of the vote but from a total universe of only 120 voters, it indicates that attracting 81 percent of the outstanding ballots is not mathematically feasible.

Therefore, Reeves advances into the secondary election against former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr., who placed second with 33 percent of the vote compared to Reeves’ 49 percent. The third candidate in the race, state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando), captured 18 percent and won two counties. Judge Waller finished first in seven counties.

Obviously, Reeves’ dominant showing in carrying 71 counties, which was almost enough for him to claim the nomination, now makes him a heavy favorite for the run-off. It will be interesting to see if Judge Waller comes under pressure not to force the secondary vote and an award the nomination to Reeves in order to unify the party and better prepare for the campaign to oppose Hood.

Turnout proved high in comparison with other races of note, at least for Republicans. The still growing turnout figure of 366,477 Republican voters tops the last open gubernatorial race back in 2011 when just under 290,000 individuals voted in that particular Republican primary. The Democrats’ 276,664 voter turnout figure increases the total participation figure in yesterday’s vote to 643,141 individuals with the two counties still outstanding.

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Now, Texas Rep. Marchant Bows Out

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area)

Aug. 7 2019 — The string of House retirements continues this week as eight-term Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area) announced that he, too, will leave the House at the end of the current term. Combined with his time in the Texas legislature, Marchant will have served 34 consecutive years in elective office.

The 24th District has been a focal point of the Texas congressional scene since Democrats position the seat high on their conversion opportunity list because of its close 2018 result. Despite Democratic nominee Jan McDowell spending less than $100,000 on her campaign, she came within a 51-48 percent margin of upsetting the veteran congressman, a difference of approximately 8,100 votes.

The vote drop-off from the 2016 presidential year, as it relates to turnout, was only four percent in 2018 compared to 42 percent when contrasting the 2014 midterm to the 2012 presidential election year, thus partially explaining why the latest results are so different.

Texas Congressional District 24, currently represented in the US House by Kenny Marchant.

The 24th District is the region surrounding DFW Airport, and contains parts of Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton Counties. President Trump carried the seat with a 51-44 percent margin, down from Mitt Romney’s 60-38 percent, and the 58-41 percent margin that John McCain recorded back in 2008. Then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke slipped past Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in the November election by the same margin that Rep. Marchant won re-election, 51-48 percent, however.

Over his eight elections, Marchant averaged 61.8 percent of the vote, but 58.2 percent since the district was drawn in its present fashion from as part of the 2011 redistricting process.

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Hickenlooper: Heading Out and In?

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper – running for Senate after all? (Photo Moritz Hager)

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 6, 2019 — Some politicos are saying that former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is poised to end his failed presidential campaign and return home to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). The speculation is largely coming because new Hickenlooper for Senate campaign domain names were just registered in the past few days. That, and in an interview Sunday on satellite radio, Hickenlooper said he would “be a fool” to continue running for president if he couldn’t see improvement in the polls.

Democratic leaders had long attempted to recruit Hickenlooper into the Senate race, but he steadfastly refused to be swayed from becoming a presidential candidate. He went further than rejecting the idea of running statewide in 2020 when he even expressed some disdain for the Senate as a political body. Hickenlooper seemingly ruled out serving in the Senate saying in February that, “I’m not cut out to be a senator,” and that, “Senators don’t build teams. Senators sit and debate in small groups…”

In his absence, no less than 14 Colorado Democrats have come forward to seek the party nomination to oppose Sen. Gardner, who began the 2020 cycle as arguably the most vulnerable Republican incumbent because his state is moving decidedly leftward. Ten months later, however, Sen. Gardner’s re-election chances appear stronger.

Of the 14 active candidates, six have electoral experience and seven have served in either elective, appointed, or political party positions. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold leads the group, and former state House Speaker and statewide candidate Andrew Romanoff, ex-state House Majority Leader Alice Madden, former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, state Sen. Angela Williams (D-Denver), ex-US Ambassador Dan Baer, and former Boulder County Democratic chair Ellen Burnes follow.

It is unclear just how many from this group, if any, would step aside for Hickenlooper, who is certainly a weakened political figure considering his national performance and given that he previously has said he doesn’t want the federal office. Therefore, it is conceivable that he will have to face what could be a difficult Democratic primary, and then Sen. Gardner, who is widely regarded as the best campaigner in the Republican candidate stable. According to the latest Federal Election Commission disclosure report, Sen. Gardner’s campaign account possessed just under $5 million at the June 30 deadline.

Though money will be no object for either Sen. Gardner or the eventual Democratic nominee, Colorado voting history is a major factor. The state has been trending much more Democratic since the turn of the century, and President Trump only recorded 43 percent of the vote in his loss here to Hillary Clinton. Prior to that, the last Republican to carry Colorado was George W. Bush in 2004.

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Yet Another Texas Rep. to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2019 — The House Republican retirements keep coming. Now, three-term Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) announced late last week that he will not seek re-election, risking the truest swing seat in the Texas delegation. Hurd, a former CIA officer, says he wants to leave the House “to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security.”

Texas Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio)

The Lone Star State’s 23rd District stretches from San Antonio all the way to El Paso, a distance of some 550 miles, making this one of the largest CDs in the United States that does not encompass an entire state. The 23rd also shares approximately 800 miles of the US-Mexico border, the largest of any congressional district.

TX-23 contains 26 counties and parts of three others, but just about 50 percent of the people live either in Bexar (San Antonio) or El Paso Counties. The seat’s voting history is as politically tight as its area is expansive. Hillary Clinton carried the district over President Trump, 50-46%, but Mitt Romney slipped past President Obama, 51-48 percent.

Rep. Hurd has represented the district for three terms but has never reached 50 percent in his trio of victories. Though he has won three times, his average vote percentage is 49.1 percent. In 2018, against Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones, Rep. Hurd won the second closest raw vote victory of any Republican in the House, a 926-vote win. This seat will now likely become the top Democratic conversion target in the 2020 election cycle.

Prior to Rep. Hurd winning here in 2014, the district had flipped between the two parties since Democrat Ciro Rodriguez defeated seven-term veteran Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla in 2006. A subsequent court order after the state legislature drew new districts in 2003 changed significant parts of this seat, making it more Democratic.

After being re-elected in 2008, Rep. Rodriguez then lost in 2010 to Republican Quico Conseco, who then lost to Democrat Pete Gallego in 2012, who then lost to Hurd in 2014. From 2010-2018, the top winning percentage was Gallego’s 50.3 percent in 2012. Therefore, the 23rd has performed as the most evenly split district in the country during the current decade.

The citizen voting age population breaks into two racial demographic sectors, Hispanic (62.0 percent) and non-Hispanic white (31.8 percent). It is the most Hispanic district in the US that consistently elects a Republican candidate.

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Seven State Polls

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2019 — In the latter half of July, several different pollsters conducted Democratic presidential primary polls in seven important primary states. In Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, California, Texas, Michigan, and Illinois — all states whose voters will cast primary ballots on or before March 17 — contain an aggregate 1,012 first-ballot delegates.

The seven polls give us an idea as to how Democratic primary participants in the corresponding states would vote if their presidential nomination elections had been in mid to late July. Additionally, we make delegate dispersion projections from the polling data to the qualified candidates and attempt to determine whether any one individual could garner the 50 percent delegate support necessary to claim a first ballot victory.

The Firehouse/Optimus organization polled in Iowa (July 23-25; 630 likely Iowa Democratic caucus voters), New Hampshire (July 23-25; 587 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters), and South Carolina (July 23-25; 554 registered South Carolina voters). The Public Policy Institute of California surveyed the Golden State Democratic primary (July 14-23; 766 likely California Democratic primary voters). The University of Texas at Tyler (July 24-27; 554 registered Texas voters), Climate Nexus (July 14-17; 324 likely Michigan Democratic primary voters), and Victory Research (July 26-29; 1,200 likely Illinois Democratic primary voters) tested the Texas, Michigan, and Illinois electorates.

For the purposes of this exercise, let us assume that all of these surveys accurately depict how the Democratic electorates in each of these states would vote. Let us further assume that the congressional district delegate apportionment directly corresponds to the at-large state vote.

Doing so allows us to make delegate apportionment estimates for each of these states with the understanding that the conclusions are not precise. They do, however, give us an idea as to how the delegate dispersion might break. Understanding that several of the polled minor candidates will not be on the ballot when actual voting occurs allows us to project additional votes going to the close finishers, those at 13-14% in these polls. Doing so likely boosts them to the 15 percent threshold that party rules mandate as a qualification requirement for delegate votes.

The aggregate total of 1,012 delegates from these seven states represents just under 27 percent of the entire first ballot universe at the Democratic National Convention, so the combined tested states are significant in terms of the number of delegates they possess and their voting schedule position.

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