Author Archives: Jim Ellis

An Open Review – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 7, 2018 — Continuing our look at the 53 open seats, today we look at those in the Lean R & D categories. It is here where Democrats will have to score big if they are to claim the House majority.

2018-elections-open-seatsThe US Supreme Court declined to hear the Pennsylvania Republicans’ arguments earlier this week to move the live redistricting case to the federal level. To review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled the current congressional map a political gerrymander, but without citing any election law statute violations. State Senate Republicans are refusing to provide the court with their requested data until the legislative bodies are informed about what is legally wrong with the current map.

In the meantime, the court has already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw a new plan, and moved the congressional candidate filing deadline from March 6 to March 20. Additionally, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) is already saying he will veto the legislature’s map, so all of these developments suggest that a new, Democrat-friendly map will likely be in place before the 2018 elections.

In our overview of the current House open seat configuration, two of the Pennsylvania seats are either in the Lean D category (PA-7; Rep. Pat Meehan-R) or Lean R (PA-15; Rep. Charlie Dent). With a new map likely to collapse most, if not all, of the four open Republican seats, it is likely that both of the aforementioned districts will find themselves in the Democratic column after the next election.

Currently, the Lean Democrat column consists only of Republican seats. In addition to PA-7, and probably adding at least PA-15 post-redistricting, retiring GOP Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) are leaving seats that are also trending toward the Democratic side of the political ledger.

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An Open Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2018 — With so many House retirements coming into focus within the past several weeks, it is a good time to review the list of 53 districts heading into their next election without an incumbent on the ballot.

Of the 53, Republicans currently hold 37 seats versus just 16 for the Democrats. Here’s the breakdown of how things look regarding all 53 seats right now:

2018-elections-open-seats

  • Safe Republican (19)
  • Likely Republican (6)
  • Likely Democrat (6)
  • Safe Democrat (6)
  • Lean Republican (5)
  • Lean Democrat (3)
  • Toss-up (8)

This configuration could change drastically if the Pennsylvania map is re-drawn in a court-ordered redistricting. The state Supreme Court has declared the Keystone State map a political gerrymander and has ordered a new plan drawn by Feb. 15.

The state Senate President Pro Tempore is responding, however, that the legislature will not comply with the court order to turn over statistical data need to draw a new map because the state court did not cite the legal provisions violated in making the current plan a gerrymander. Additionally, the US Supreme Court is sending signals that it may try to involve itself even though this case is filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution and not its federal counterpart. We can count on major action coming here within the next several days.

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court is in the process of deciding the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, which will also affect active lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; in Pennsylvania, the political gerrymandering lawsuit realm is not directly part of this group because its case is filed within the state court system. But the Republicans have petitioned the federal high court to look at this case for other legal reasons.

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Two Major Pre-Announcements

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 5, 2018 — A pair of major Republican figures yesterday made public that likely candidate declarations will be forthcoming in mid-February.

Mitt Romney | Facebook

Mitt Romney | Facebook

In Utah, a spokesperson for former Republican presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says the latter is scheduling a major announcement for Feb. 15. Though stopping short of saying that Romney will announce his candidacy for the seat that veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is vacating, it would be virtually preposterous for someone to schedule an event in advance only to announce that he would not be running.

Several states to the east, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), while in mid-January declined to enter the state’s special US Senate election to oppose appointed incumbent Tina Smith (D), is calling together past supporters for a Feb. 12 meeting to access his chances of again running for governor. Since the Republican field appears weak at this point, Pawlenty entering the race would quickly make him the favorite for the party nomination, at the very least.

Once Romney enters the Senate race, he will be a virtual lock to win the election. A University of Utah poll conducted for the Salt Lake Tribune (Jan. 15-18; 803 registered Utah voters) found the former presidential candidate jumping out to a huge 64-19 percent lead over Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (D), the major announced Democratic candidate. Romney was scoring 85 percent loyalty among Republicans, attracting 55 percent of Independents, and 18 percent of Democrats.

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Two More Head Out the House Door

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 2, 2018
— The cavalcade of US House retirements continued with two more well known veteran members, one from each party, making public their intention to retire from Congress.

Counting this latest pair, the number of representatives not seeking re-election has now risen to 53 (37 Republicans; 16 Democrats). Four of the open seats are currently vacant and in special elections, though the MI-13 contest (former Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit) will run concurrently with the regular cycle.

SC-4

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg, SC) | Facebook

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg, SC) | Facebook

Four-term GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg) announced that he will also retire at the end of the current Congress. Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, had signaled his desire to return to South Carolina as early as the 2014 election but continued to remain and now will do so just through the final year of the current term. Prior to assuming the leadership of the government reform committee, Gowdy came to national notoriety as chairman of the special House investigatory committee on the Benghazi situation.

Rep. Gowdy’s 4th Congressional District largely encompasses the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area in the Palmetto State’s northwestern corner. As the Spartanburg County solicitor (known as district attorneys in most states), Gowdy ousted then-Rep. Bob Inglis in the 2010 Republican primary, and has easily been elected and re-elected ever since.

He was commonly viewed as a rising Republican star in the House but eschewed the opportunity to enter any internal leadership races. Gowdy says he will not be on the ballot for any office in 2018, and is planning to return to the South Carolina jurisprudence system.

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Democrat Primary Action

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 1, 2018 — A day after Florida former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville) reported to prison to serve her sentence for public corruption, her successor, Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee), drew a major Democratic primary challenger.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown (D) announced Monday that he will enter the party primary in FL-5 against Rep. Lawson, the man who defeated Brown in the 2016 Democratic nomination contest after her legal trouble became public news but before her conviction.

The 5th District was newly configured in the state Supreme Court’s 2016 mid-decade redistricting map. Instead of stretching south from Jacksonville to Orlando to create a majority minority CD, the court map changed the draw to move west into a Jacksonville-Tallahassee split. The move forced then-Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) to retire after one term because her previous 2nd District had been divided into this new 5th District seat with Rep. Brown as the incumbent and an open Republican CD.

Lawson, a former state senate minority leader, is also a 28-year veteran of the Florida legislature. Taking advantage of Rep. Brown’s legal problems and that Tallahassee had been added to the district, Lawson racked up a 48-39 percent Democratic primary victory, and easily won the safely Democratic seat in November.

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No. 51

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2018 — The number of House open seats continues to grow. Veteran New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that he will not seek a 13th term later this year.

2018-open-house-seats-toss-upDespite averaging 65.3 percent of the vote during his 12 successful elections and even winning with a healthy 58-39 percent victory margin in 2016, Rep. Frelinghuysen was considered vulnerable for 2018. Democrats have recruited at least two candidates who are pulling in strong financial resources in order to stock a large campaign war chest for a presumed political battle in what is always a very expensive state.

The Dems say this district is changing because Hillary Clinton came within one percentage point of carrying it (49-38 percent) in the 2016 presidential campaign. Still, her performance here pales in comparison to a 55-41 percent Garden State win, and even though the district became close in the presidential contest, it has yet to fall to a Democratic candidate.

Yesterday, we covered the Ohio political situation as being potentially favorable to Republicans. Conversely, the northeastern tri-state region comprised of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey perhaps has even a better chance of adding a strong number of seats to the Democratic conference.

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Ohio’s Red Leap

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 30, 2018 — Thought of as one of the key swing states in American politics since the turn of the century, President Trump’s stronger than expected eight-point Buckeye State victory in the 2016 presidential race proved eye-opening. But, was his performance trend setting or an anomaly?

A new Fallon Group survey for the state’s 1984 Society group finds the upcoming open governor’s race is exceeding the Trump marker, at least in the early going. Such totals indicate that the presidential outcome could be signaling a more Republican-oriented direction beginning to form in the state, but a closer look may point to the Trump numbers as affirming a political trend rather than creating one.

Left - Mike Dewine (R) | Right - Richard Cordray (D)

Left – Mike Dewine (R) | Right – Richard Cordray (D)

According to the Fallon Group data (Jan. 16-19: 801 likely Ohio general election voters; 286 Ohio Republican likely primary voters, 248 Ohio likely Democratic primary voters), attorney general and former US senator, Mike DeWine (R), would lead recently resigned Federal Consumer Protection Bureau director and ex-Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray (D) by a whopping 48-29 percent margin. The polling demographics appear to correctly model the state, thus providing reliability support. In the polling sample, Anglo voters account for 77.4 percent of the respondents, as compared to 79.5 percent of the state population. African Americans are 14.2 percent of the polling universe, and 12.8 percent of the actual Ohio population. Hispanics register 2.2 percent of the respondent group, against a 3.7 percent state population figure. Therefore, the respondent universe is consistent with at least the overall Ohio population complexion. Additionally, the polling universe is comprised of 51.9 percent females, versus a 51.0 percent actual make-up.

The Republican leadership approval ratings are mixed. The respondents believe, by a margin of 54:25 percent, that Ohio is generally on the right track. Outgoing Gov. John Kasich’s (R) job performance is rated highly: a 57:29 percent favorability ratio. President Trump, on the other hand, is upside-down at 43:52 percent positive to negative.

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