Author Archives: Jim Ellis

AZ, NJ, NY, TN Complete Filings

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2022 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona, New Jersey, and New York for major party candidates, and for all candidates in Tennessee. The first three states noted each have later deadlines for minor party, independents, and write-in candidates.

Arizona

In Arizona, the Senate and governor races highlight the state’s political battles this year, and there were no surprise entries in either contest.

The Senate race features incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who is running for a full six-year term after winning the 2020 special election to fill the balance of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. He has no primary opposition. Republicans feature five candidates, but the battle is revolving around three of them for the party nomination — Attorney General Tim Brnovich, venture capitalist Blake Masters, and former solar energy company CEO Jim Lamon.

The open governor’s contest finds six Republicans and three Democrats vying to become their respective party standard bearers. Former news anchor Kari Lake, who former President Donald Trump endorses, and ex-congressman and 2000 gubernatorial nominee Matt Salmon appear to be the leading candidates. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs opens with a large polling lead over former state Rep. Aaron Lieberman and ex-Nogales mayor, Marco Lopez. This race will likely evolve into a toss-up general election battle.

Four key congressional general election races and a Republican primary are on tap in Arizona. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) inherits a tougher new district, now numbered 1, that rates a R+7 according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization. His current 6th District is R+13. Physician Hiral Tipirneni (D), who held Rep. Schweikert to a 52-48 percent victory in 2020, is not returning for a re-match. Former Phoenix Suns executive Adam Metzendorf appears to be the strongest of the three filed Democrats. Rep. Schweikert drew two minor GOP primary opponents.

Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Sedona) has an R+6 rated 1st District under the current map, but the new 2nd District, despite having almost two-thirds of his current territory, increases to R+15, making him possibly the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the country. Six Republicans are vying for the party nomination, the leader of whom appears to be state representative and decorated Army veteran Walt Blackman.

Democratic representative and former Phoenix mayor, Greg Stanton (D-Phoenix), is also looking at a post-redistricting competitive general election. Seeing his Phoenix metro district move from D+15 to D+1 suggests that a Republican challenger will be a serious contender in November. Six Republicans are vying for the party nomination including two sports figures. Jerone Davison is a pastor and former member of the then-Oakland Raiders NFL franchise after playing football for Arizona State University. Tanya Wheeless is an attorney and former senior vice president for the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise.

The open Tucson-anchored 6th District is another commission-drawn CD designed to be competitive for the decade. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Tucson) had she decided to seek re-election, would have run here. This is a must-win seat for Republicans if they are to capture a House majority. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has already endorsed former Hispanic Chamber of Commerce official Juan Ciscomani among a field of five GOP candidates. Democrats feature a battle between state Rep. Daniel Hernandez (D-Sunnyside) and former state senator Kirsten Engel.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) draws no opposition in her 8th District. In the new 9th CD, controversial Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) sees his home placed outside the new 9th, but faces only a Republican primary battle in a CD that contains 70 percent of his current constituency.

New Jersey

There is no 2022 New Jersey Senate race, and the governor’s contest was decided last year. Therefore, the US House races lead the top of the ticket. Redistricting saw the Democratic commission members strengthen the politically marginal districts of Reps. Andy Kim (D-Bordentown), Josh Gottheimer (D-Wycoff), and Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), but doing so made Rep. Tom Malinowski’s (D-Rocky Hill) 7th CD more Republican.

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Ohio Numbers Crunched

Ohio 2022 Congressional Redistricting map. Click on image to go to FiveThirtyEight’s fully interactive map.

By Jim Ellis

April 11, 2022 — When Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville) announced the suspension of his re-election campaign on Wednesday, it brought some national attention to what has become a Buckeye State redistricting debacle.

Gibbs called out the Ohio State Supreme Court for allowing the replacement congressional district map to languish in political limbo after they rejected the first iteration for excessive political gerrymandering. Though congressional candidate filing was delayed until March 4 from the original Feb. 2 deadline in association with the state’s May 3 primary, the court still took no action toward finalizing a new map. Therefore, candidates were forced to file for districts that may or may not change before election day.

When the Ohio state high court finally informed the Democrat plaintiffs who were challenging the map that the decision regarding the first map constituted the final ruling, the complaint process had to rewind, beginning with a new lawsuit. Now filed, it is apparent that first judicial action on the new challenge is still months away. Therefore, the replacement map appears set for the 2022 elections, at least through the nomination process.

That finally being the case, we can now look at what is becoming a relatively competitive map for the upcoming general election.

Ohio loses a seat, therefore a new congressional map must be in place for the 2022 elections, otherwise all 15 US House contests would be decided on a statewide basis.

The state will now feature two open seats, Gibbs’ 7th CD and the newly configured open 13th District that Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) is vacating to run for US Senate. Two new House members, Reps. Shontel Brown (D-Warrensville Heights/Cleveland) and Mike Carey (R-Columbus), who were both elected in November 2021 special elections, will stand for full terms this year.

Of the 13 incumbents seeking re-election, two, Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) — the latter being the fourth longest-serving member of the House who was first elected in 1982 — find themselves in toss-up general election situations.

In Rep. Chabot’s 1st District, which covers much of greater Cincinnati, the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the seat as a D+3. Dave’s Redistricting App largely agrees, finding the average Democratic vote over a historical set of races registering 49.91 percent as opposed to 47.93 percent for Republicans. Already, the general election is largely set with Rep. Chabot seeking re-election and the Democrats having a consensus candidate is Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman.

Rep. Kaptur sees the Cleveland portion of her district redacted, meaning her Toledo-anchored seat now features an even mix between Democrats and Republicans. The FiveThirtyEight group rates Kaptur’s new 9th CD at R+6, but Dave’s Redistricting App sees this seat differently. According to the party averages over the course of past political contests, the Democratic vote is 48.77 percent, as compared to a virtually even percentage for Republicans, 48.63.

Rep. Kaptur has no Democratic primary opposition, but four Republicans have filed, two of whom would be significant general election contenders. They are state Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and state Rep. Craig Riedel (R-Defiance). It is likely that one of these two will advance into the general election and make the OH-9 general election campaign one of the most hotly contested in the nation.

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Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs Suspends Campaign for Re-election

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville) to retire.

April 8, 2022 — Expressing frustration with the Ohio courts and constituent complexion of his new district, six-term Buckeye State Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville) on Wednesday surprisingly became the 22nd Republican US House member who has decided not to seek re-election.

This retirement announcement is different from all the others — 31 Democrats have also made public their decision to leave the House at the end of the current session — because Gibbs had filed for re-election and Ohio early voting has already begun.

Lashing out at the state Supreme Court that has delayed for weeks in providing 2022 candidates a clear direction with regard to the redistricting maps, Gibbs said in his retirement announcement statement, “It is irresponsible to effectively confirm the congressional map for this election cycle seven days before voting begins, especially in the Seventh Congressional District, where almost 90 percent of the electorate is new and nearly two-thirds is an area primarily from another district, foreign to any expectations or connection to the current Seventh District.”

Rep. Gibbs has a valid point about the state Supreme Court. After rejecting the original congressional map under partisan gerrymandering reasoning, the legislature returned a second map, and the court did not render a decision, even after again rejecting the alternative version maps for the state House and Senate. Therefore, the congressional incumbents and candidates have been languishing for weeks not knowing precisely the location of the new district lines, and long past the candidate filing deadline that occurred on March 4.

The court justices then informed the Democratic plaintiffs regarding their lawsuit challenging the congressional lines, after waiting for several weeks with no action, that the original decision on the first map constituted their final ruling, thus the plaintiffs would have to file a new lawsuit for them to consider further arguments to the second plan. The Democratic plaintiffs did file again, but even preliminary action of any kind is reportedly now months away. Hence, the second map is, at least for now, in place for the 2022 election cycle.

The court and legislature were also in a battle over whether the high court even has jurisdiction to order new maps. Under the Ohio Constitution, the courts do not have authority to draw new redistricting maps. They may only remand any rejected map back to the legislature. Thus, the continuing saga of 2022 Ohio redistricting.

Considering Gibbs’ late withdrawal, Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) immediately announced that the congressman’s name cannot be removed from the ballot, and any vote cast for him would now not be counted. The move puts former Trump White House aide and Marine Corps veteran Max Miller in the favorite’s position for the Republican primary.

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CA-22 Special Election Results; Michigan Rep. Upton to Retire

California’s 22nd Congressional District

By Jim Ellis

April 7, 2022 — Voters in California’s Central Valley went to the polls Tuesday after others had mailed their ballots for the past couple of weeks to choose a replacement for resigned Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare); but, it won’t be until April 14 until we see certified results under the state’s elongated ballot-counting system. Votes can still come into county election centers through the mail but must be postmarked no later than Tuesday, April 5, in order to be counted.

The published results at this writing show former state Assembly Republican Leader and ex-Tulare County Supervisor Connie Conway leading the field of six candidates with 22,175 votes or 34.8 percent. The next closest competitor is Democrat Lourin Hubbard, a California state water official, posting 19.7 percent, or 12,546 votes. It is likely that Conway and Hubbard will advance into the special general election to be held concurrently with the California jungle primary on June 7.

The other candidates are Republican Matt Stoll with 15.1 percent (9,647 votes), Democrat Eric Garcia (15.0 percent; 9,574 votes), and Republicans Michael Maher (8.9 percent; 5,665) and Elizabeth Heng (6.5 percent; 4,119). These totals will change as more votes are counted, but the order of finish will probably remain constant. Republican candidates received 41,606 combined votes or 65.3 percent of the currently tabulated vote as compared to 22,120 (34.7 percent) for the Democratic contenders.

Fundraising was not a major factor in a race where the winner will serve in Congress only six months, because the new incumbent will have not have a place to run in the regular election under the state’s new redistricting map. Interestingly, the fundraising totals are virtually opposite of the early standings, with Heng having raised the most at $214,000 through March 16, but she languishes in last place in preliminary returns. Conway reported raising only $82,893 and Hubbard, $58,829.

The reported turnout is 63,726 voters with several thousand more ballots to be received and tabulated. As of Aug. 30, 2021, there were 415,442 registered voters in the 22nd District. At this point, the turnout is 15.3 percent but will go higher as more ballots are received and tabulated.

MI-6

With 18-term veteran Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) facing a paired incumbent situation in a new 4th District as a result of Michigan losing a congressional seat in national reapportionment, the former House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman announced that he will retire at the end of the current congressional session. Upton’s decision brings to an end what will be a 36-year career in the US House.

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California’s Strange Special Election in District 22 Held Yesterday

By Jim Ellis

Connie Conway (R)

April 6, 2022 — Voters in California’s Central Valley region have had their special congressional election wrap up as of yesterday. Former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) resigned at the beginning of this year, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) scheduled a special election to fill the balance of the term even though this seat will disappear in the next Congress.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission members significantly re-drew the Fresno area, and Nunes’ 22nd District largely became the new 5th CD that stretches northerly from the Fresno area’s northeast sector to the outer Sacramento suburbs. The new 5th is strongly Republican, and Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) sought re-election from this district. Had Nunes wanted to remain in Congress, this is the seat where he would have run.

Such being the case, the current 22nd District that former President Trump carried 52-46 percent and where Rep. Nunes averaged 61.7 percent of the vote during the five elections of the past decade, is split into four different seats, meaning last night’s special election winner really has no place to run in the general election. Therefore, the new member will serve just the balance of this year and retire.

Despite the lack of a congressional future, the 22nd District special drew four Republicans and two Democratic contenders. The race leader as of this writing is former state Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway (R), who had said from the beginning that she would only serve the remainder of this term. She currently leads the race with 34.8 percent. It will take a week before results can be finalized due to mail-in votes that still need to be tabulated.

Another Republican, Elizabeth Heng, who held Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) to a 57-43 percent victory in the current 16th CD (Rep. Costa is seeking re-election this year in the new 21st District), was also in the race. She was originally talking about running for the full term in the neighboring 13th District, a marginally competitive open seat, but did not file for the regular election.

The other Republican candidates were former FBI agent Michael Maher and retired Navy officer Matt Stoll. The Democrats were Lourin Hubbard, an operations manager at the California Department of Water Resources, and graduate student Eric Garcia.

In this special election, all of the candidates were placed on one ballot. If a contender received a majority of 50 percent plus one vote, said individual is elected outright and would be sworn into the House upon the California Secretary of State officially certifying the election. If no one received a majority, the top two finishers, regardless of party preference, would advance to a special general election run concurrently with the regular California primary election on June 7; with Conway’s tally currently standing at just 34.8 percent of the vote, it looks like things are headed that way.

Though the seat will be occupied for only a short time, this is an important election. Five seats are currently vacant, the number increasing with the resignations of Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Filemon Vela (D-TX) last week on March 31, and four are from the Republican side. This reduces the Republican conference temporarily to 209.

If the Republican party holds the 22nd CD in this special election cycle, and a Republican candidate ulitimately will likely win, the conference would grow to 210, with the majority Democrats at 221. If the Republicans hold the AK-at large, MN-1, and NE-1 seats in their own scheduled special elections later in the year, the party will again hold 213 seats. Democrats, on the other hand, look to drop to 220 when Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) resigns.

It is possible we will not see special elections in the Texas and Florida Democratic vacancies until the regular general election date. It appears that both Govs. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Ron DeSantis (R-FL) have the legal leeway to schedule concurrently with the regular general election to fill the Vela and Deutch vacancies.

California’s current 22nd District is comprised of parts of Fresno and Tulare Counties and includes the northeastern portion of Fresno city and the communities of Clovis, Dinuba, Visalia, and Tulare.