Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Another Resignation;
North Dakota Convention Results

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi)

April 10, 2018 — Four-term Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), who had shelved his plan to run for re-election well before the March 6 state primary largely due to details stemming from a sexual harassment settlement, abruptly resigned from the House on Friday. Farenthold delivered his announcement via video during the middle of the day and left his position by 5 pm.

The resignation from his TX-27 seat had been rumored because the House Ethics Committee was about to conduct a further investigation into the harassment case and the $84,000 taxpayer funded settlement. Rep. Farenthold said earlier that he would reimburse the government for the payment, but records do not indicate the refund was made. By resigning, the Ethics Committee cannot continue the investigation because Farenthold will no longer be a member.

With now former Rep. Farenthold having left office early, five House seats will be vacant upon Pennsylvania Rep-Elect Conor Lamb’s (D-Pittsburgh) imminent induction. The others are: AZ-8 (Franks-R), MI-13 (Conyers-D), NY-25 (Slaughter-D), and OH-12 (Tiberi-R). All will be filled by special election before the current Congress ends, though the Michigan seat will be done concurrently with the regular election cycle and there is no announced schedule for the New York seat. The AZ-8 seat special general election is April 24. The OH-12 special primary will be held May 8, concurrent with the regular state primary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to decide a replacement procedure for the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester).

The Texas succession situation is unclear. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has eight days to decide on a special election schedule. The post-primary run-off for both parties is May 22 for the now vacant 27th CD.

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Pawlenty Returns as Minnesota
Gubernatorial Candidate

By Jim Ellis

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

April 9, 2018 — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who briefly became a presidential candidate in 2012, ventured back into the active campaign world late last week. Though routinely indicating that he had “retired” from elective politics after serving eight years as the state’s governor and then dipping his toe into the presidential campaign waters, Pawlenty is now again an active political candidate.

The Minnesota gubernatorial race is an open contest. Though the state does not impose term limits on its governor, Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton has chosen to retire after eight years in office. Prior to winning the governor’s office, Dayton served one term in the United States Senate.

But Pawlenty’s run will not be an easy one. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R), who held Gov. Dayton to a 50-45 percent re-election victory in 2014, pledged to continue his own campaign saying that, “Pawlenty has never gotten over 46 percent of the vote in a statewide election, even after four years of being governor, and that was before a controversial second term, before he made $10 million as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist, and he publicly trashed Donald Trump a month before Election Day.”

Minnesota politics features a major state endorsing convention in June before the August primary. Most of the time, candidates who do not receive enough delegate support to win an official state party endorsement usually end their campaigns and support the one who did secure the backing. Such unity may not appear in this Republican battle, however. It is unclear if Pawlenty will even enter the convention because precinct caucuses to choose state delegates have been underway since February and Johnson has fared well in early straw polls. Should Pawlenty force a primary, which appears to be his ultimate choice, it is clear that there will be an ensuing battle between he and Commissioner Johnson for the nomination.

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Indiana in Full Throttle

By Jim Ellis

April 6, 2018 — Now just over a month before the May 8 Indiana Republican Senate primary, the three major candidates are simultaneously hitting the airwaves.

Not surprisingly in campaigning before the Hoosier State GOP electorate, each contender is trying to make the case that they are strongly conservative, pro-Trump, and anti-Washington. Though Vice President Mike Pence obviously hails from Indiana, surprisingly only one of the three new ads mentions him in the midst of each man doing his best to stake out the position furthest to the right.


Mike Braun’s ad


Though the campaign strategies of Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), and former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) appear similar, each has his own clear angle. With little polling available, and none from the immediate past, it appears the electorate is in store for a mad dash to the political finish line.

Braun’s ad (above) takes the most unique position. While the other two candidates began with greater name identification, support, and financial bases, the former state representative’s personal wealth has allowed him to advertise early in order to make this a legitimate three-way race. His strategy is to turn the multi-candidate contest into a one-on-one campaign by establishing himself as the individual opposing both congressmen, which, in his past ads, describes them as being so interchangeable that few can tell them apart.

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Rep. Elizabeth Esty to Retire;
An Analysis of the Now Open CT-5

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D, CT-5)

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D, CT-5)

April 4, 2018 — Three-term Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Cheshire/Waterbury), under fire for not responding to her chief of staff’s sexual and physical abuse of another staff member that even included a restraining order being issued, announced Monday that she would abandon her run for re-election.

When it surfaced that Rep. Esty allowed the chief to remain in his position for three months after the legal situation came to her attention, she began to suffer heavy criticism for not acting sooner to dismiss him. Several media editorial boards and local Democratic state legislators began calling upon her to resign. The congresswoman’s retirement announcement did not include a statement of resignation, however. Therefore, at this point, it appears she will serve the balance of the term.

Under the present Connecticut map, the 5th District is the most politically competitive in the state. Rep. Esty was first elected in 2012, winning a close 51-49 percent general election victory over then-state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R). She succeeded Christopher Murphy (D) who left the House to successfully run for the Senate. He seeks a second term this year.

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Virginia, South Carolina Filings;
Majority of States Done

By Jim Ellis

April 3, 2018 — As March ended, the two most recent filing states of Virginia and South Carolina reached their declaration deadline. We now see a majority of domains (28) posting a final set of political contenders in preparation for the coming primary season.

VIRGINIA

virginia-south-carolina-mapsIn Virginia, we again see a familiar pattern, one that has often emerged in the preceding states. That is, a large number of Democrats filing against incumbent Republican House members, the overwhelming majority of whom have not previously run for office.

Against 1st District Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Montross/Fredericksburg), in what should be a safe Republican district, five Democrats filed — including Prince William County School Board chairman Ryan Sawyers — and will be on the primary ballot.

To the southeast, six Democrats, none of whom have ever previously run for public office, are challenging freshman Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach). Democratic leaders are pushing retired Navy Commander Elaine Luria as their preferred nominee. James County former supervisor, Mary Jones, is challenging Rep. Taylor in the Republican primary, but she is not expected to be a major force.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Newport News) is the only incumbent in the 11-member Virginia delegation who will be running unopposed both for his party’s nomination and in the general election.

Fourth District freshman Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) draws two minor Republicans and a Libertarian candidate. He will have little trouble securing a second term in a court-mandated district that was reconfigured before the 2016 election.

The 5th District Democrats are taking advantage of Virginia’s unique election laws that allow party leaders in each CD to choose whether they nominate via primary or convention. Six Democrats, all first-time candidates, will battle for delegate support to determine which of them advances to the general election to face freshman Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/ Charlottesville). The 5th District Democratic convention will meet on May 5.

Both parties in the open 6th District (Rep. Bob Goodlatte retiring) will meet in convention to produce nominees. Republicans are scheduled for May 19, while Democrats have yet to announce a schedule. Interestingly, for the first time, the Republicans are adopting a plurality format instead of voting multiple times to ensure the winner receives majority delegate support. The western Virginia 6th District is the safest Republican seat in the state, so the eventual nominee becomes the prohibitive favorite in November.

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Senate Match-Ups Forming

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2018
— Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.

2018-elections-open-seatsBelow are the races that look set as general election campaigns. Those headed for serious primary battles are not included on this list.

In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:

Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.

California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.

Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.

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Balancing the Scale

By Jim Ellis

March 30, 2018 — The Hill newspaper released an article entitled, “GOP Seeks to Avoid Dem Upset in Arizona” Wednesday, but there is little empirical evidence to suggest that any such result is in the offing.

Is Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko facing defeat by Democrat Hiral Tipirneni ?

Is Arizona Republican candidate Debbie Lesko (above) facing defeat by Democrat Hiral Tipirneni?

The Hill correspondents Ben Kamisar and Lisa Hagen report that the national Republican political apparatus in the form of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Republican National Committee, and the Congressional Leadership Fund (the latter organization loosely affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan), are investing a combined $570,000 to protect what should be a safe seat. The spending reference somehow provides substantiation that Democrat Hiral Tipirneni is potentially positioning herself to defeat former state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko in the April 24 special election to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria).

Fresh from a stinging loss in the western Pennsylvania special election, Republican House members and rank and file supporters would rebel if the political committees were not taking this impending race seriously. Therefore, the ingestion of what is a modest amount of money when compared to previous special election spending has much more to do with covering internal political bases than any reference suggesting trouble for Lesko.

Moreover, even in their own copy, the authors quote numbers from Democratic pollster Lake Research for the Tiperneni campaign that find Lesko’s lead registering 14 percentage points. The Republican campaign confirms, according to the article, that their internal polls also show a double-digit lead. The survey spread is then contrasted with President Trump’s 21-point victory from this district to suggest that Lesko is under-performing.

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