Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Texas Redistricting – The Redux

By Jim Ellis

March 16, 2017 — After the 2003 Texas redistricting saga became synonymous with internal partisan political strife, a three-judge federal panel appears to have ordered the state to again become engulfed in another such battle.

The special panel ordered a re-draw of three districts, and the after-effects of reconstituting the seats will change several more adjoining CDs. The 35th District of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), which contains parts of Bexar (San Antonio), Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, and Travis (Austin) counties, was actually declared illegal back in 2011. The Supreme Court remanded that ruling back to the panel, and instructed them to take action. Now, after three elections cycles have already passed, the court has decided to move forward.

In addition to the Doggett seat, the 23rd (Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio), and 27th (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) CDs have also been declared unconstitutional, and will need to be re-drawn if the ruling is upheld.

The Democratic plaintiffs argued that the districts illegally pack Latino voters and were done so because of race. Emails emanating from Republican staff members participating in the process, and the messages contained in them, lent credence to the Democrats’ case thus culminating in this court decision.

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Filing Closes in SC-5

By Jim Ellis

March 15, 2017 — The special election that has so far attracted the least attention in this active early political season is Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s north-central South Carolina congressional district.

Most believe the Republicans will retain the seat, but while the GOP victories here have been consistently solid, they are not landslides. Then-state Sen. Mulvaney first won the district under a different configuration in 2010, ousting 14-term Congressman John Spratt (D-Rock Hill) in a 55-45 percent result. The Republican incumbent then averaged 57.8 percent of the vote in his three subsequent re-election campaigns, reaching his highest total this past November, at 59.2 percent.

Seven Republicans, three Democrats, and five minor party contenders have filed as candidates. In South Carolina, the special election system is partisan and three-tiered. The party primaries are posted for May 2. Using the state’s typical two-week run-off format, the secondary election will be May 16 if no candidate secures an absolute majority in the first vote. The special general is scheduled for June 20.

In all likelihood, with seven Republicans on the primary ballot, it is probable that the GOP contest will yield a run-off election. Democrats appear to have one serious candidate compared to a pair of “also-ran” contenders. Therefore, it is at least plausible that the Democratic nominee will be chosen in the May 2 primary.

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He’ll Be Back — Maybe

By Jim Ellis

March 14, 2017 — Veteran actor Arnold Schwarzenegger made famous the line, “I’ll be back,” in the “Terminator” movies. Now, the former California governor is intimating that he may return to Golden State politics, saying he is “not ruling out” a run for US Senate next year.

But a bigger question looms. Veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) — the body’s most elderly member at 83 years of age — has not announced her retirement. In fact, the senator recently said in a California radio interview that she is seriously considering seeking a fifth full term in 2018. Despite her comments, she remains a retirement possibility, and it is doubtful that Schwarzenegger would run unless the seat comes open.

Several questions pose themselves. Since Republicans have fared so poorly in California statewide elections since his own last victory in 2006 (56-39 percent over then-state Treasurer Phil Angelides), there are questions as to whether the actor/politician would run as an Independent should he make a return to the electoral world.

Actually, the Indie option makes sense for a number of reasons.

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Senate: Utah & Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

March 13, 2017 — Originally elected in 1976, no Republican senator has served longer than Utah’s Orrin Hatch, and he is the eighth longest-serving member in American history. At the end of last week, he informed the media that he’s “planning on” running for an eighth term in 2018.

In 2012, Sen. Hatch indicated that he would be serving his final term upon election that year, but now his intention has apparently changed. The press office statement proved less definitive than Sen. Hatch’s words, however, suggesting that there is still a possibility for retirement.

“Senator Hatch appreciates the encouragement he’s receiving to run for reelection. While he has not made a final decision about his plans for 2018, he has made plans thus far to ensure all options remain on the table,” came the official statement clarifying the Senator’s earlier comments.

Earlier in the year, former governor and US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman (R), indicated an interest in running for the Senate. He said at the time that he did not intend to challenge Sen. Hatch, should the latter decide to seek re-election. With Huntsman now appearing to be President Trump’s choice for Ambassador to Russia, it is unlikely that he will be in the Senate campaign picture irrespective of what Sen. Hatch decides.

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Nelson vs. Scott

By Jim Ellis

March 10, 2017 — The 2018 Florida Senate race is already creating news. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has repeatedly said he will seek re-election to a fourth term even though he had been rumored as a retirement candidate.

The senator will turn 76 years of age before the next election and completing 30 years of congressional service at that time has led some to believe he might call it a career in 2018. His public comments about seeking re-election are unequivocal, however.

Simultaneously, Gov. Rick Scott (R), ineligible to seek a third term, has publicly discussed challenging Nelson. Now, two contemporary polls testing the hypothetical race were just released, and the early numbers are suggesting a typically close Florida result.

The University of Northern Florida ran a somewhat flawed poll during February (Feb. 16-26; 973 “completed surveys”), over a long 11-day sampling period but featuring a large respondent pool. Referring to them in terms of “completed surveys” tells us little about the group composition, however. Thus, we cannot clearly determine whether those queried are even registered voters, let alone likely participants in a midterm election.

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New Frontline Program Incumbents

By Jim Ellis

March 9, 2017 — In February, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced the first round of its Patriot Program, the system where GOP House members help raise funds to support those in the most politically marginal districts. Now, the Democrats have countered.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s leadership has included 19 incumbents in their Frontline Program’s first wave, an usually large number.

Of the 19, 10 should be considered truly vulnerable top-tier targets. They are:

• Tom O’Halleran – AZ-1 – 50.7% win percentage – Trump district
• Stephanie Murphy – FL-7 – 51.5%
• Charlie Crist – FL-13 – 51.9%
• Brad Schneider – IL-10 – 52.6%
• David Loebsack – IA-2 – 53.7% – Trump district
• Rick Nolan – MN-8 – 50.2% – Trump district
• Josh Gottheimer – NJ-5 – 51.1% – Trump district
• Carol Shea-Porter – NH-1 – 44.3% – Trump district
• Jacky Rosen – NV-3 – 47.2% – Trump district
• Sean Patrick Maloney – NY-18 – 50.8% – Trump district

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No Surprise in Montana;
New GA-6 Poll

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2017 — Montana Republicans convened Monday night in the capital city of Helena to choose their nominee for the special at-large congressional election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Unlike the Democratic meeting the day before, the GOP caucus went according to the predicted political script.

Before the state convention, 2016 Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte claimed to have enough pledged votes to win on the first ballot, even against five other candidates. With 203 voting members attending last night, Gianforte’s claim held true. He captured 123 first ballot votes, over 60 percent of those present and voting, and won the nomination after just one round of voting.

During the preliminary question and answer period where the six candidates fielded queries from the delegates, concern was raised about whether the special election winner would serve for more than a term. The last two Republican at-large House members, current US Sen. Steve Daines and Zinke, each departed after one term. Daines was elected to the Senate in 2014 after first winning the House seat in 2012. Though Zinke successfully ran for a second term, he would only serve two months before being confirmed as President Trump’s Interior Secretary.

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