Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Senate Snippets

By Jim Ellis

April 19, 2022 — We have seen recent changes in many key 2022 in-cycle Senate races. Below is a competitive state-by-state recap:

Alabama: Polling now consistently shows that the GOP nomination battle, which will determine who will replace retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R), is turning into a two-way race. Early leader Mo Brooks, the northern Alabama congressman who former President Trump originally endorsed only to see him recently rescind his support, has now dropped well back. It appears clear that “Black Hawk Down” pilot Mike Durant and former Business Council of Alabama President & CEO Katie Britt will advance to a runoff election. The Alabama primary is May 24 with the succeeding runoff scheduled for June 21.

Alaska: State Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson (D-Anchorage) withdrew from the race to seek re-election to the legislature, and 2020 Senate nominee Al Gross filed to run for the at-large US House special election; thus the Democrats have no announced candidate. Candidate filing is June 1 for the Aug. 16 primary. The new election system will send four candidates to the general election, so whoever comes forth as a Democratic contender will likely advance to November. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) is seeking re-election.

Arizona: Recent polling continues to show a tight GOP contest among Attorney General Tim Brnovich, and businessmen Blake Masters and Jim Lamon. Candidate filing is closed, so the field is set for the Aug. 2 primary. The eventual Republican nominee will challenge freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D).

Arkansas: Sen. John Boozman continues to campaign hard in a Republican primary battle against former University of Arkansas football player and Iraq War veteran Jake Bequette. The senator is still a heavy favorite for re-nomination and re-election.

California: Appointed Sen. Alex Padilla (D) is a cinch for election to a full term in the autumn.

Colorado: Only state Rep. Ron Hanks (R-Fremont) and construction company owner Joe O’Dea qualified for the Republican primary either through the state nominating assembly or petitioning onto the ballot. Early leaders Deborah Flora, a talk show host, and former Olympian Eli Bremer failed to qualify. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) is favored for re-election.

Connecticut: Seven Republicans have announced their candidacies against Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D). The two most credible candidates appear to be former Republican National Committeewoman Leora Levy, who has almost $1 million cash-on-hand, and state Senate Minority Leader Themis Klarides. This race may draw a bit of attention, but it’s still a very long shot for any Republican to beat Sen. Blumenthal.

Florida: Both Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) have now each raised more than $30 million for the 2022 race, and both have over $13 million cash-on-hand. Sen. Rubio remains favored in a state that is moving closer to the GOP, but Rep. Demings has now actually raised a bit more money than the incumbent. A close finish here is virtually guaranteed.

Georgia: Polling suggests that former University of Georgia and NFL football star Herschel Walker will win the Republican nomination outright on May 24, thus setting the stage for the general election between he and freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock (D).

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Ohio Entering Home Stretch

Ohio redistricting map in question (click on map above or here to go to FiveThirtyEight’s interactive map)

By Jim Ellis

April 18, 2022 — We’re on the threshold of entering the final two weeks before the Ohio primary on May 3, and the candidates for all offices are swinging into high gear just as the state Supreme Court rejected another set of redistricting maps.

The state House of Representatives and Senate primaries having been postponed, because the legislature and state Supreme Court cannot find common ground pertaining to the new district lines; no new primary date has been set. Late last week, for the fourth time, the judicial body rejected the legislature’s draw for their own political boundaries in both chambers. Since the Ohio Constitution does not give the courts the authority to draw maps, all the justices can do is return the plans to the legislature and order them to begin yet again.

News is occurring in the races that are headed toward nominations. The new Remington Research Group US Senate GOP primary survey (April 11-12; 884 likely Ohio Republican primary voters, interactive voice response system) finds former state treasurer, Josh Mandel, forging back into the lead and state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), a minority owner of the Cleveland Guardians MLB franchise, moving into contention.

The statewide GOP primary ballot test finds Mandel leading the pack with 23 percent as compared to businessman Mike Gibbons’ 17 percent, Sen. Dolan’s 15 percent, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken posting 12 percent, and author J.D. Vance trailing at 10 percent.

Reports suggest that an endorsement coming for Vance from former President Donald Trump is imminent. If so, the polling standings will change. Remington posed a second ballot test question to the current respondent pool asking how they would vote if knowing Trump had endorsed Vance. While Mandel would still lead, his edge shrinks to 19 percent; Gibbons, Dolan, and Vance would bunch together at 15 percent; and Timken drops to 11 percent.

If the reports of Trump endorsing Vance prove true, the Remington poll suggests that such a move would likely change the race’s flow. The Trump involvement in such a manner appears to make a close contest even closer.

The Remington survey is the tenth poll taken of the Republican Senate primary since the beginning of February. Gibbons has led in six of them and Mandel three, with one showing a three-way tie among the two aforementioned men and Vance. The fact that all five of the key candidates, at one time or another, have been within shouting distance of the lead suggests that any one of them could catch a flyer at the end and propel themselves into a nomination victory with a small plurality.

On the Democratic side, US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) appears to be cruising toward an easy nomination victory against former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official and 2020 failed congressional candidate Morgan Harper.

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DeSantis Releases Congressional Map

Proposed Florida redistricting map moving from 27 to 28 districts (click on map or here to go to FiveThirtyEight interactive map).

By Jim Ellis

April 15, 2022 — After vetoing the legislature’s congressional map and forcing a special legislative session to finish the redistricting process, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) now commands the upper hand. As a result, legislative leaders say they are willing to pass his map.

Applying the district political numbers that the MCI Maps organization calculated, we see 20 of the 28 new districts that would have voted for former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden. Overlaying the Ron DeSantis-Andrew Gillum governor’s race of 2018, a total of 18 new CDs would have supported the current state chief executive. Today’s Florida congressional delegation splits 16R-11D.

The major point of contention during the regular legislative session pertains to the elimination of the current northern Florida majority minority 5th District of Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) that stretches from Tallahassee to Jacksonville. Gov. DeSantis wants a race neutral map. Should his map be enacted, there is no question that lawsuits would be filed immediately, and this fight could lead to a fundamental examination of the national Voting Rights Act.

Assuming the map clears the legal hurdles, the Republicans could add as many as four seats to the Sunshine State delegation, which would negate Democratic gains in New York, for example. Many of the new districts could lead to increased competition for GOP members, however, as several would drop into lean Republican seats instead of ones that are currently safe.

The only displaced incumbent is Rep. Lawson, as he would have no reasonable place from which to seek re-election. His situation would then create another seat in the Jacksonville area and give current 4th District Rep. John Rutherford (R-Jacksonville) likely the choice of running in new District 4 or 5.

As a result of this northern state map strategy, Rep. Neal Dunn’s (R-Panama City) 2nd CD would become significantly less Republican, largely because the entire city of Tallahassee would be placed in his new CD. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the current 2nd as R+40. Ex-President Trump would have carried the new 2nd with 54.86 percent, with Gov. DeSantis approximately a percentage point lower.

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Budd Laps McCrory in N.C.

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance)

April 14, 2022 — Just a month ago, some analysts and activists were questioning North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd’s (R-Advance) US Senate campaign even to the point where speculation was building that former President Donald Trump was about to pull his endorsement.

The tables have rapidly turned.

The fifth consecutive statewide survey was published Tuesday showing Budd leading former Gov. Pat McCrory as the two begin the final month of campaigning prior to the May 17 Republican primary.

Survey USA published their latest study (April 6-10; 593 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters, online) projecting Rep. Budd to a 33-23-7-2 percent advantage over McCrory, former US Rep. Mark Walker and author Marjorie Eastman. Since March 22, four other pollsters have published similar numbers. The McCrory camp has yet to counter with different figures.

Vitale & Associates was the first since early January to find Budd leading the race, a 32-29 percent margin over the former governor according to their March 22-23 survey of 504 North Carolina Republican primary likely voters.

The margin started gelling for the Budd campaign this month when three successive surveys gave the congressman double-digit leads. Cygnal, Emerson College, and WPA Intelligence — all published just before the new Survey USA study — staked Rep. Budd to leads of 11, 16, and 13 percentage points, respectively, in their polls conducted between April 1-5.

The turnaround is not particularly surprising. In relation to the Trump endorsement, early polling consistently showed the political horse race changing when the respondents were informed that the former president supported Budd. Though trailing McCrory in the initial ballot test, the fact that the two candidates flipped just on the knowledge of Trump’s endorsement was an early indicator that the former governor and fourteen-year Charlotte mayor held underlying political weaknesses.

The other clue suggesting McCrory could potentially collapse was the fact that 35 percent was his high-water mark in any of the 12 surveys results released since Jan. 5 and he only averaged 27.7 percent in those dozen polls. This, for a former governor before his own political party.

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Iowa Senate: Finkenauer Disqualified

By Jim Ellis

Former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D)

April 13, 2022 — An Iowa district judge rejected former US Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s (D) signature petitions late Sunday night, thus disqualifying her from the Democratic primary ballot. It appeared that she was the party’s early front runner to challenge Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) in the general election.

Under Iowa law, a statewide candidate must submit 3,500 valid registered voter signatures to obtain ballot position. A side requirement is that at least 100 signatures must come from a minimum of 19 individual counties, and it is here where Finkenauer came up short. While filing more than 5,000 signatures statewide, the qualification came down to two of her 19 counties where all but the bare minimum number were rejected outright.

The State Objection Panel, comprised of two Democratic statewide officials and one Republican, had approved the petitions, but Polk County District Judge Scott Beattie said the body was wrong for ignoring the full legal requirements. Three signatures from the two counties in question lacked the date of signature, which is a clear requirement under the Iowa procedure. Republicans then filed their legal challenge arguing that the Objection Panel did not fully adhere to the law.

Judge Beattie agreed, and wrote that though the “court takes no joy in this conclusion,” he had no choice but to enforce the letter of the law.

Finkenauer immediately claimed the judicial ruling was partisan in nature because Judge Beattie is a Republican. She said his decision is a “massive gift to Washington Republicans,” according to the Des Moines Register newspaper.

She then launched an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Secretary of State, however, has said he has to see a ruling overturning the decision, if such is to be rendered, before April 15 in order to satisfy the national MOVE Act requirements, which mandates notice of an election at least 45 days prior for overseas and military voters. The Iowa primary is June 7. Therefore, if the Court proceeds with their review, it will have to act within the next couple of days.

It is not yet known what amount Finkenauer raised during the year’s 1st quarter, but she had already obtained more than $1.9 million in contributions prior to 2021 ending. Of that, she reported more than $723,000 in the bank at the Dec. 31 reporting deadline.

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