Author Archives: Jim Ellis

New York Rep. Slaughter Passes;
Nevada’s Sen. Heller Dodges Primary

By Jim Ellis

March 20, 2018
— Veteran New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) who, at 88 years of age was the oldest member of the House of Representatives, passed away on Friday after suffering a fall-related concussion earlier in the week.

Veteran New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) | Facebook

Veteran New York Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester) | Facebook

Rep. Slaughter, a native of Kentucky, was first elected to the House in 1986 from a Buffalo-Rochester district where she unseated first-term GOP Rep. Fred Eckert. She held the seat ever since, and had announced plans to run again this year. Slaughter became the first woman to chair the House Rules Committee, a position she held while the Democrats held the majority from 2007-2011.

Her one close re-election call came in 2014, when she surprisingly survived by just 871 votes. She rebounded in 2016 to defeat the same opponent, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini (R), 54-42 percent. Prior to her service in Congress, Slaughter spent two terms in the New York State Assembly and one in the Monroe County Legislature.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will now call a special election for the winner to serve the balance of the term and presumably run in the 2018 regular election. In accordance with New York election law, the Monroe County political leadership will choose party nominees. Therefore, no primary elections will be held.

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PA: Lamb, Saccone Decide; Others, Too

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court

New Pennsylvania Congressional Map | Source: Pennsylvania State Supreme Court


By Jim Ellis

March 19, 2018 — Though Tuesday’s special election results in western Pennsylvania are not yet even finalized, the two candidates, and others, are making decisions about where to run in the regular election cycle. After the state Supreme Court created a new congressional map for the coming election, they lengthened the candidate filing period from one that closed March 6 to a new deadline of tomorrow, Tuesday, March 20.

Republicans are formally challenging the new map in federal court. A three-judge federal panel has already heard their arguments and the GOP leaders also filed a motion to stay the state court’s mapping decision with the US Supreme Court. Since no ruling has yet come from either judicial panel, incumbents and candidates must move forward with the qualifying process assuming the new map will stand.

Under Pennsylvania election law, congressional candidates must obtain 1,000 valid signatures from registered party members to qualify for the ballot. Since such a process obviously requires time, all candidates, including Rep.-Elect Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) and defeated Republican candidate Rick Saccone, must determine where they will run under this new and very different Keystone State congressional map.

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Wicker Dodges McDaniel in Mississippi

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville)

March 16, 2018 — Just before the Mississippi candidate deadline approached on March 1, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who came within 1,719 votes of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination in the 2014 Republican primary, filed to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in this year’s June primary.

The move appeared dubious since McDaniel was just beginning a campaign in early March and Sen. Wicker, whose campaign committee has well over $4 million in the bank, was well prepared for a serious challenge coming from his Tea Party opponent.

Once again, it appears Sen. Cochran has factored into McDaniel’s political future. With the senator announcing that he will end his 40-year senatorial career next month — the tenth longest Senate tenure in American history — the southeastern Mississippi conservative state legislator announced Wednesday that he will already abandon his challenge against Wicker, and instead enter the special election to replace Sen. Cochran.

Under Mississippi succession law, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) will appoint an interim replacement after Cochran officially leaves office. The interim senator will be eligible to stand for election when the people have a chance to vote in the special election to be held concurrently with the regular election calendar.

Unlike in many states, there will be no nomination cycle for the Mississippi special election. All candidates, presumably including the interim senator, will be placed on the general election ballot. Should no one receive an absolute majority, the top two finishers will advance to a secondary run-off election three weeks after the regular general election. This date, according to the 2018 calendar, would be Nov. 27, or two days before Thanksgiving.

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Lamb, Barely

By Jim Ellis

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

Pennsylvania’s current 18th District, in the southwest corner of the state.

March 15, 2018 — Democrat Conor Lamb appears to have captured the 18th District special election held Tuesday in southwestern Pennsylvania, besting Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg); but it will likely be a couple days before the result is finalized. The margin stands at 641 votes in Lamb’s favor of 228,177 ballots cast with all precincts reporting and absentee votes counted, meaning a recount could be ordered.

Democrats will claim that this special election result sets the groundwork for the “blue wave” they have been predicting because their candidate converted a district that President Trump carried by 20 points and where resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) didn’t even draw an opponent during the past two elections.

Republicans will now counter saying that Lamb didn’t run like a liberal Democrat but was able to bring the large conservative western PA Democratic voter contingent — those who came out in droves to support President Trump, for example — back into his party’s column. During the campaign, Lamb publicly indicated that he would not support Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a way to convince the behaviorally conservative regional voter that he is not a national Democrat. Additionally, Lamb’s deep family ties to the Democratic base helped him as well. His grandfather is a former state House majority leader, and his uncle is the Pittsburgh City controller.

President Trump will undoubtedly take some credit for the close outcome. Prior to his visit to the district, pollsters were showing a much larger lead for Lamb than the preliminary final outcome produced. The final Monmouth University poll, for example, predicted a six to seven-point Lamb lead if the Democrats “surged” in turnout as they have done in other special elections around the country.

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CATCHING UP WITH THE PA-18 ELECTION

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Former Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Former Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

March 14, 2018 — The Keystone State special congressional election was held yesterday, as southwestern Pennsylvania voters went to the polls to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).

Before PA-18 Election Day, Democrats appeared to have the better candidate in the person of attorney Conor Lamb, whose grandfather was a former state House Democratic leader and uncle is the Pittsburgh City Controller.

Simultaneously, this election carried major national ramifications, yet the winner’s success might be short-lived, when one can be identified, which likely will take a day or two longer. With 100 percent of the vote in, Lamb leads Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) 113,111 (49.8 percent) to 112,532 (49.6 percent) a difference of only 579 votes as of this writing. Absentee and provisional ballots are still being counted. So there’s a chance that Saccone could overtake Lamb, however, that’s unlikely.

Democrats predicted victory before yesterday’s election, citing polls showing Lamb holding a slight lead over Saccone. The last survey, coming from Monmouth University (March 8-11; 372 likely PA-18 voters), gave Lamb leads of two to seven points, depending upon the overlaid turnout model. Obviously, the more energized and aggressive Democratic participation model gave Lamb the stronger edge. Under a low turnout model, the lead dropped to two points. Pennsylvania is one of 13 states that has no early voting system, so there were no tangible pre-election turnout indicators for this contest.

The Lamb campaign approached $5 million in dollars raised for the race versus Saccone directly commanding resources in the $1 million range. The national Republican Party organizations and conservative groups entered the district to even the spending, so it’s likely we’ll see total combined expenditures approach or exceed the $15 million mark.

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