Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Rooney to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples)

Oct. 23, 2019 — Two-term Florida Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples) announced over the weekend that he would not seek election to a third term next year, thus FL-19 becomes the 27th open House seat for the current cycle.

Three of the open seats are vacant, meaning they will each go to special election to fill the balance of their respective terms. The trio of districts are: MD-7 (the late Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), and WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R). The Wisconsin election calendar has been set for a Feb. 18 special primary and May 12 general. Maryland election law dictates that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announce the 7th District special election calendar on or before Oct. 28. No calendar announcement has yet been made for the New York situation.

Rooney, despite serving in Congress for only a brief while, had been on the unofficial retirement watch list because he had raised only $6,600 cycle-to-date for his next campaign and is at odds with his party on several issues. The congressman is independently wealthy, so the low total was not solely an indication of his intention since he has the wherewithal to self-fund his campaigns. Rep. Rooney had been a Republican critic of President Trump, took the no corporate PAC contribution pledge, and indicated he may support the impeachment inquiry.

Florida’s 19th District is a safely Republican southwest Florida seat. President Trump carried the district, 60-37 percent, while Mitt Romney won here with a similar 60-39 percent margin. In his two elections, Rep. Rooney racked up victory percentages of 62 (2018) and 66 percent (2016).

In a similar configuration over four previous terms, then-Rep. Connie Mack IV (R) averaged 65 percent of the vote. And, after Mack left the House to run for the Senate, Republican Trey Radel, who a year later would be convicted for cocaine possession and forced to resign, scored a 62 percent victory in 2012. GOP businessman Curt Clawson followed with win margins of 67-29 percent in the 2014 special election, and then 65-33 percent in the regular election cycle before choosing not to seek re-election in 2016.

Therefore, it is probable that the next Republican primary winner will summarily be elected to the House in November, 2020. The 19th District contains two-thirds of Lee County along with approximately half of Collier County. Its main population centers are the Cape Coral, Ft. Myers, Naples, and Marco Island localities.

Is Buttigieg a One-State Wonder?

By Jim Ellis

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Oct. 23, 2019 — The new Suffolk University/USA Today poll of Iowa voters (Oct. 16-18; 500 likely Iowa Democratic caucus attenders) was conducted immediately after the most recent Democratic presidential debate and confirms that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg registered a strong performance.

According to the Suffolk results, former Vice President Joe Biden posts only 18 percent support, a drop of six points from their July Iowa poll, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is in a virtual tie with him at 17 percent. She gained four percentage points since mid-summer. Mayor Buttigieg now moves into a close third place with 13 percent, more than doubling his support from the July poll when he registered only six percent preference. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) remains constant with nine percent and holds fourth position.

The remainder of the field includes four candidates tied with three percent support: billionaire Tom Steyer who made his first debate appearance in the October forum, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) who dropped a whopping 13 percentage points from the July Suffolk U. survey, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar who, like Mayor Buttigieg, needs to take advantage of her Midwestern roots and reap a solid support percentage from the Iowa Democratic electorate. So far, however, she has failed to generate significant support.

While Mayor Buttigieg has appreciably increased his Iowa standing, it remains to be seen if this poll is reflective of a short-term bounce from a strong debate performance or whether seeds are being sown for a legitimate push into the top tier. And, even if he proves himself in Iowa, will that momentum carry over into other states? At this point, the available data suggests that Buttigieg could be a one-state wonder.

Some Surprises Top the List
Of Third-Quarter Dollars Raised

Kentucky challenger Amy McGrath (D) is the surprise top Senate fundraiser for Q3.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 22, 2019 — The campaign financial disclosure reports are now published and, as usual, the Daily Kos Elections site has compiled a cumulative activity summary. The list of top fundraisers includes some familiar names, but also features a few newcomers.

The top Senate fundraiser is a surprise, as Kentucky challenger Amy McGrath (D) attracted more than $10.7 million in the quarter, over $7 million of which came in small-dollar unitemized contributions. She is opposing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), which explains why she has attracted such a large amount of national activist money.

As they have for the entire cycle, Arizona candidates Mark Kelly (D) and appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) again posted impressive combined quarter fundraising figures.

Kelly, a retired astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson), raised over $5 million more for the quarter taking his election cycle total to almost $14 million. Sen. McSally is close behind. She pulled in just over $3 million for the quarter and has accumulated approximately $8.3 million since the campaign began. These numbers are more in line with a big state Senate race, making them extraordinary for an Arizona political contest, a state that has only nine congressional districts.

The Senate candidates breaking the $3 million barrier for the quarter are Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC; $3.24 million in the 3rd Quarter, $12.9 million for the election cycle), Maine challenger Sara Gideon (D; $3.18 million; $4.2 million), John Cornyn (R-TX; $3.11 million, $13.5 million), and Michigan challenger John James (R; $3.1 million, $4.7 million).

Those banking over $2 million for the past 12 weeks are, Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI; $2.48 million for the 3rd Quarter, $9.2 million for the election cycle), Cory Gardner (R-CO; $2.42 million, $9.1 million), Mitch McConnell (R-KY; $2.24 million, $13.4 million), Jeanne Shaheen (R-NH; $2.23 million, $7.3 million), South Carolina challenger Jamie Harrison ($2.21 million, $4.0 million), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Colorado challenger John Hickenlooper (D) both with $2.12 million, and Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D; $2.01 million, $5.7 million). Sen. Collins has raised $8.6 million for the election cycle and Hickenlooper, $2.1 million for a Senate campaign that began in September.

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MD-7: Succeeding Rep. Cummings

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore)

Oct. 21, 2019 — The death of veteran Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore) just days ago, on Oct. 17, creates an obvious vacancy in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which is anchored in the city of Baltimore. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has a defined window to schedule the replacement special election for the late congressman, who was first elected in a 1996 special vote.

Cummings passed away in Baltimore, where he had been hospitalized at Johns Hopkins University’s medical facility. It is presumed that Gov. Hogan will wait until after the mourning period to schedule the special election, but he must act within 10 days of the occurred vacancy. The primary must be held within 65 days of the call date, with a special general election following within 65 days after the primary election date in order to comply with Maryland election law.

The calendar means the primary must be scheduled on or before Dec. 31 with the entire special cycle completed on or before March 5. Since the Maryland 2020 primary is scheduled for April 28, the 7th District special election must, therefore, be a stand-alone vote in order to meet the state’s mandated timetable.

Maryland employs a closed primary system, so Cummings’ congressional successor will be decided in the Democratic primary. The district has a Democratic Party registration figure of 68.3 percent, compared to Republicans’ 15.9 percent, and “Unaffiliated” 14.5 percent. Segments of under 3,300 people apiece belong to the Libertarian, Green, and other parties. Early voting will be in effect for the special election. Under state law, the early voting period begins the second Thursday prior to the election and ends the immediate Thursday before.

The district houses almost 60 percent of Baltimore city, in addition to encompassing over half of Howard County and just under a quarter of Baltimore County. The 7th shares Baltimore city with the 3rd (Rep. John Sarbanes) and 2nd CDs (Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger). The seat is majority African American/black, registering 53.6 percent of the demographic unit within the district confines as compared to the white population of 33.4 percent. Asians represent seven percent of the constituency, and Latinos just under four percent.

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Gov. Bevin Pulls Even in Kentucky

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 18, 2019 — Though the Louisiana governor’s race has received most of the recent national political attention largely because of their just concluded jungle primary election that somewhat surprisingly forced Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) into a run-off, news is now breaking in the Kentucky statewide electoral contest.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (L) and Attorney General Andy Beshear

Democrats have been outwardly predicting that Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear (D), would oust Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in the coming election.

They first cited a pair of August polls that projected Beshear to be holding a substantial nine percentage point advantage over the governor (Garin-Hart-Yang Research and Clarity Campaign Labs both found Beshear leading 48-39 percent). Additionally, they point to the Morning Consult gubernatorial surveys that ranked Bevin dead last in job approval among the 50 state chief executives with a 34:53 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Now, however, the race appears to be reversing course less than a month before the Nov. 5 election. Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy just released their latest data (Oct. 10-13; 625 registered Kentucky voters) finding that the two major party candidates have fallen into a tie at 46 percent apiece, meaning Gov. Bevin has captured current momentum.

Both parties will spend heavily to help their respective candidate cross the finish line first, but Bevin has at least two tangential points going for him in the final weeks.

First, independently wealthy, the governor has the ability to self-fund his race, which largely accounts for his $1.58 million to just over $628,000 cash-on-hand advantage as revealed in the final regular pre-election financial disclosure report.

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A Brewing Battle Emerging in Kansas

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 17, 2019 — Former legislative aide Abbie Hodgson, the only announced Democratic candidate in the KS-2 congressional race, withdrew her challenge to freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) Wednesday because she claims not to possess the fundraising ability to conduct a credible campaign. At this point, there is no alternative Democrat on the horizon in the Kansas district, but that will soon likely change.

Rep. Watkins won a tight 48-47 percent general election victory over former state House Minority Leader and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis (D) last November to succeed retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R). This came after political newcomer Watkins, a West Point graduate, Army Ranger and Afghanistan veteran, won a tight seven-way Republican primary but with only 26.5 percent of the vote. Controversy arose when a major independent expenditure committee emerged, which was principally funded by the candidate’s father, to back Watkins.

More potential upheaval surrounds Rep. Watkins, but it simmers below the surface. Rumors were flying around in August that the congressman would imminently resign his office because of a rumored scandal that was about to become public. Watkins took no such action, and to date nothing involving scandalous activity has come to light.

This has not stopped certain Republicans from taking action, however. In early September, reportedly at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) who lost his own bitter primary to then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner made a surprising move. He was the first declared US Senate candidate after incumbent Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement, but he then transferred from the statewide campaign to instead enter the primary to challenge Watkins in the Topeka-anchored congressional district.

Kansas’ 2nd is a decidedly Republican seat, but not intensely so. The CD occupies 23 eastern Kansas counties and parts of two others. It runs vertically from the Nebraska border to Oklahoma and consumes the territory between the Kansas City metro area and Wichita.

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New NC State Poll

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 16, 2019 — A new Meredith College political survey (Sept. 29-Oct. 7; 998 registered North Carolina voters) shows electoral weakness for Sen. Thom Tillis (R) as he seeks a second term next year.

The poll places the first-term US senator in a statistical tie with both of his potential Democratic opponents, state Sen. Erika Smith (D-Gaston) and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. The large number of uncommitted voters, however, suggests the race could go to either party and will likely break late, similar to many previous North Carolina election results.

According to the Meredith data, Sen. Tillis would tie both Smith and Cunningham with each of the three candidates receiving 33 percent support in all pairings. Obviously, these are not particularly favorable numbers for any incumbent and must be taken more seriously in this instance because of North Carolina’s history of either defeating its senators or seeing them not serve a second term for another reason.

In fact, the only two Tar Heel senators who have been re-elected since 1974 are Jesse Helms (R) and current three-term incumbent Richard Burr (R). During that span, the following senators were no longer in office after one term:

ONE-TERM NORTH CAROLINA SENATORS

  • Robert Morgan (D), 1980 – lost re-election
  • John East (R), 1986 – committed suicide in June before seeking a second term
  • Jim Broyhill (R), 1986 – appointed to fill Sen. East’s term; lost 1986 election)
  • Terry Sanford (D), 1992 – lost re-election
  • Lauch Faircloth (R), 1998 – lost re-election
  • John Edwards (D), 2004 – did not seek a second term to instead run for president
  • Elizabeth Dole (R), 2008 – lost re-election
  • Kay Hagan (D), 2014 – lost re-election

The Meredith College pollsters also tested Gov. Roy Cooper (D) as he fights for a second term likely against Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R). Here, Meredith finds the incumbent holding a 46-33 percent margin over his eventual GOP challenger.

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