Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Latest Post-Primary Developments

By Jim Ellis

the-primariesJune 7, 2018 — Featuring eight primaries and the Minnesota political party endorsing conventions immediately preceding the state’s candidate filing deadline, the week has brought a whirlwind of political activity. We’ll update the latest developments.

Over the weekend, Minnesota Democrats and Republicans met in convention, as they do in every election cycle, to issue formal party endorsements. It is the typical practice in this state for the un-endorsed candidates to end their campaigns instead of forcing an August primary. But, 2018 is proving to be an unusual year.

While the Republicans re-endorsed their 2014 gubernatorial nominee, particularly when former Gov. Tim Pawlenty chose not to compete in the endorsing convention, it became clear that there would be an active Aug. 14 Republican primary between the ex-state chief executive and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

The Democratic process was even more interesting, however. When the delegates voted to endorse state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), state Auditor Rebecca Otto announced that she would end her campaign. On the other hand, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who said weeks ago that he would force a primary if he lost the party endorsement, confirmed that he will activate an Aug. 14 primary against Murphy.

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Big Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

June 6, 2018 — Voters chose their general election nominees in eight states last night with most races ending as predicted, though a few surprises also occurred. Here’s the rundown:

ALABAMA

the-primariesGov. Kay Ivey scored an outright Republican primary victory, defeating Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and two others. The governor scored 56 percent of the GOP primary vote. She will now face Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox in the general election. Maddox defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, 55-29 percent, in last night’s Democratic primary. None of the other four candidates even reached 10 percent support.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) placed first in her multi-candidate primary, but scored only 39 percent support. She will now advance to a July 17 run-off election with party-switching former Democratic Congressman and ex-Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, who recorded 28 percent of the vote. In 2010, Roby unseated then-Democratic incumbent Bright, so the run-off will be a re-match of sorts. Her low vote total suggests that Rep. Roby is in danger of losing re-nomination in the secondary election. The winner faces business analyst Tabitha Isner who won the Democratic primary with 60 percent of the vote. Either Roby or Bright will be favored in the general election after the run-off concludes.

In the other challenged primary race, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) notched a 61-39 percent win over businessman Clayton Hinchman. Earlier, this looked to be a significant challenge, but Rep. Brooks easily secured re-nomination.


CALIFORNIA

The California tabulation is incomplete as votes can still be received through Friday. Ballots postmarked yesterday will count as long as they reach the county elections office by 5 pm on Friday. Therefore, some second place finishes in the various races are somewhat undetermined though the current leader for the final general election qualifying position will likely hold on through the final counting phase.

As expected, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) finished first (33 percent) in the open governor’s race and advances into the November general election. Republican attorney and former presidential candidate John Cox (26 percent) clinched second place making both the state GOP leadership and Newsom happy. The Republicans needed a statewide candidate in the general election to help with voter turnout for the down ballot races, while Newsom clearly wanted a Republican against him in the general as opposed to another Democrat. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa finished third (13 percent) and state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) was fourth (10 percent). In all, 27 individuals received votes for governor in the state’s jungle primary format.

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Big Primary Preview

By Jim Ellis

June 5, 2018 — Today voters in eight states — Alabama, California, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota — will choose nominees for the 2018 general election in the single primary election day with the largest number of voters participating. Here’s a rundown on where things stand in each of the eight states:


ALABAMA

the-primariesThe most interesting race on the Alabama primary card is the state’s governor’s race. Incumbent Kay Ivey (R) runs for a first term after succeeding resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R), when he left office last year as part of a plea bargain agreement for campaign finance violations.

Polling gives the governor wide leads to defeat Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile), and Baptist minister Scott Dawson. For the Democrats, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb are vying for the party nomination. Gov. Ivey is the favorite today and in November.

In House races, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) faces a multi-candidate Republican primary, including former US Rep. Bobby Bright, the man she unseated in 2010 when he was the Democrat incumbent. Also in the race is state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and former Roy Moore campaign manager Rich Hobson. Rep. Roby is favored, but the possibility of being forced to a run-off exists if she fails to obtain majority support.

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California Jungle Primary Intrigue

The California state flag

The California state flag

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2018 — In 2010, Golden State voters adopted a ballot proposition that changed the state’s primary system. As we have often noted in articles about the state’s political campaigns, the primary is now a qualifying election with the top two vote-getting candidates advancing to the general election regardless of percentage or political party affiliation. Looking toward the California preliminary vote tomorrow, the top-two jungle primary system may produce some unintended consequences.

When the initiative was first floated eight years ago, many pro-enterprise organizations joined in support because they correctly saw that business coalition candidates, and Republicans in particular, were headed for further downturns in California elections. The top-two format, many believed, would produce more centrist victors from both political parties. In practice, when analyzing the three election cycles since the process began and going into a fourth on Tuesday, such has not quite been the case.

As we know, Democrats have heavily targeted California in their 2018 bid to regain the US House majority, believing that their chances of winning the seven Republican districts Hillary Clinton carried in the last presidential election are strong. But Tuesday’s vote is providing them a new obstacle to overcome, a complication that could actually shut them out of even having a general election candidate in some of their top targeted districts.

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Arizona Senate: Filing Closes,
New Poll Shows Surprise

Arizona-mapBy Jim Ellis

June 1, 2018 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona Wednesday for the state’s Aug. 28 primary election, and the US Senate candidate fields are now set. Little in the way of surprise — barring last minute filers who have not yet been reported, the Republicans, who are attempting to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R), number three in total: US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and ex-state senator and former US Senate candidate Kelli Ward. For the Democrat primary, US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) faces attorney Deedra Abboud, a minor candidate.

Remington Research just released the results of their latest Grand Canyon State GOP primary survey conducted last week (May 23-24; 2,011 likely Arizona Republican primary voters via an interactive voice response system). According to the data, Rep. McSally attracts 42 percent support as compared to ex-Sheriff Arpaio’s 25 percent, while Ward tallies 23 percent. In two other polls conducted in April, Rep. McSally led in one and Ward the other.

While the McSally advantage is 17 and 19 points over Arpaio and Ward in the most current survey, she led the former sheriff and the ex-state legislator, 36-26-25 percent in a mid-April Magellan Strategies poll. OH Predictive Insights, however, found Ward jumping out to a 36-27-22 percent advantage over Rep. McSally and Arpaio in their early April study.

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Poll: New Jersey Closing

By Jim Ellis

new-jersey-mapMay 31, 2018 — A new curious poll was released right before the Memorial Day break that suggests the New Jersey Senate race is already closing.

Since presumed Republican nominee Bob Hugin, the former chairman and CEO of the Celgene pharmaceutical corporation, has already spent $3.7 million on his campaign in conjunction with the June 5 primary, it is not particularly surprising that the margin between he and Sen. Bob Menendez (D) is getting tighter.

What appears unusual are the raw numbers from the recent Fairleigh Dickinson University survey, however. The poll (May 16-21; 856 registered New Jersey voters) looks to be sound methodologically, and the numbers reported for various approval ratings and other data points seem consistent with previously released research. The ballot test, however, raises questions because the incumbent’s support figure is so low and the undecideds high (46 percent). According to the F-D study, Sen. Menendez leads Hugin only 28-24 percent.

Despite the veteran senator seeing the federal bribery case against him fall apart and charges dismissed, his reputation has still suffered. The F-D report finds the senator’s favorability index at 33:39 percent favorable to unfavorable with only 51 percent of Democrats answering with a positive response. In comparison, the state’s junior senator, Cory Booker (D), posts a 55:27 percent ratio and a positive rating among Democratic respondents of 79 percent.

Demographically, the senator’s numbers are weak across the board. Even while leading Hugin in every category, his margins are tight and overall support figures poor. Sen. Menendez gets 27 percent among men, 29 percent from women, 27 percent with white voters, and just 30 percent from non-white voters. Even the college-educated voters, usually a strength segment for Democratic candidates, favor him only 32-24 percent.

This May poll is drastically different from published university polls in April and March. But Hugin’s strong early campaign provides at least a partial explanation. The former corporate leader is so far self-funding to the tune of $7.5 million and had raised almost $700,000 from individuals as listed in the May 16 pre-primary disclosure report.

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Rep. Garrett Reverses Course

By Jim Ellis

May 30, 2018 — Late last week, with rumors swirling that Virginia freshman Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville) would not seek a second term, the congressman called a news conference to announce that he would run even though the day’s opening comments seemed to point in an opposite direction. On Memorial Day, however, not only did he reverse course by announcing that he was changing his mind about continuing his political career and actually would not run, but he also publicly admitted that he was an alcoholic and was seeking treatment for it.

virginia-congressional-districts

With that announcement, District VA-5 becomes the 62nd House open seat and the 42nd that the Republicans must defend; but this latest development may actually help the GOP hold the central Virginia CD. With the scenario of a weakened Rep. Garrett heading into a general election against a well-funded Democrat, it is now probable that with a fresh candidate replacing Garrett, GOP retention chances would be improved.

Both Rep. Garrett and Democrat Leslie Cockburn, an award winning “60 Minutes” producer for CBS News, are unopposed in the June 12 primary. Once Rep. Garrett becomes the official nominee and withdraws, the local congressional district Republican Party will then meet in a special convention to choose a replacement standard bearer.

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