Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The Alabama Debacle

By Jim Ellis

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Nov. 14, 2017 — Senate Republicans have a major advantage in the current election cycle, but may be on the precipice of giving it away.

Looking at the 2018 Senate map, Republicans have only to defend eight of the 33 in-cycle seats. Considering that six of the eight are the safe Republican states of Mississippi, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming and the Democrats need a net gain of three conversion seats to claim the majority, it appears unattainable even if the latter party converts legitimate targets in politically marginal Nevada and now open Arizona.

But the mathematics change if Democrats score an unlikely upset in the Alabama special election on Dec. 12, and the latest unfolding events there suggest that such an outcome is far more likely to happen.

As we know, Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, the twice removed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, has been accused of sexual impropriety with at least one teenage girl when he was 32 years old in 1979. Washington, DC Republicans, who appear to be taking the Washington Post story and the woman’s allegations at face value, are urging Moore to remove himself from the race. Alabama Republicans are still standing firm for Moore, refusing to accept the story without proof. For his part, Judge Moore denies the incident happened.

Three polls have already surfaced telling us that Moore has suffered a major hit. Earlier surveys found him leading in low double-digits, but Opinion Savvy, Gravis Marketing, and JMC Analytics & Polling immediately went into the field to test the Alabama electorate’s reaction.

Opinion Savvy (Nov. 10; 515 likely Alabama special election voters) conducted their survey just hours after the Moore story broke. Their results find that Moore’s lead has evaporated into a 46-46 percent tie with Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former US Attorney.

Gravis Marketing launched their poll just as quickly (Nov. 10; 478 likely Alabama voters) and finds a similar ballot test tally: 48-46 percent in Moore’s favor.

JMC Analytics (Nov. 9-11; 575 registered Alabama voters) sees Jones pulling into a 46-42 percent lead (48-44 percent when leaners to both candidates are added), but an over-sampling of female voters could account for the Democratic advantage. Fifty-six percent of the survey respondents were female and they break for Jones, 46-40 percent. Men favor the Democrat 46-45 percent.

Considering these polls were taken immediately as the story was breaking and the questionnaires included an explanation of what was being said about him, the results for Moore are not devastating. For the most part, Republican voters are taking Moore’s side while Democrats believe the accuser. The fact that the division is roughly even suggests that Moore has a chance to rebound if he can effectively tell his story.

While Republican leaders may be calling upon Judge Moore to remove himself from the ticket, realistically and legally, he cannot. Under Alabama election law, the ballot cannot be changed within 76 days of the election. That period began Sept. 28. Now comes talk that Gov. Kay Ivey (R) could be approached to postpone the election, or call a special session of the legislature to pass a new emergency election statute. The governor says she is not inclined to even think about such an option.

Additionally, some absentee packets containing Moore’s name have already mailed, thus making it logistically difficult, if not illegal, to inject a new ballot into the campaign. Therefore, the outlook is virtually certain that the election will proceed as scheduled on Dec. 12.

Another idea suggests that the Senate refuse to seat Moore if he wins the election. Should all Democrats vote against Moore, only three Republicans would need to break ranks to keep the seat in abeyance. Presumably, the state could then call a new election, but there would be nothing preventing Moore from running again. Should that be the case, Gov. Ivey then could appoint another interim senator or even keep Sen. Luther Strange (R) in the position. Also, a new election would allow him to run again, too.

For their part, Democrats are remaining publicly quiet. They are likely doing so for two reasons. First, they are adopting the old axiom, “if one’s political opponents are in process of destroying themselves don’t stop them.” Second, they may soon be faced with another vote to eject a senator. Should New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez be found guilty in his corruption trial, there will likely be a move to expel him. Democrats would find themselves in a bind if they make a public spectacle of denying entry to Moore, and then quickly pivot to do the opposite in order to save Menendez.

The Roy Moore saga is far from over but at the outset, the situation appears perilous for Republicans. Since losing this seat would endanger their majority standing in 2018, the stakes for how the majority leadership chooses to handle the Alabama situation becomes even more challenging.

Moore Under Attack; Goodlatte #34

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican nominee in a special Senate election in Alabama.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 13, 2017 — Controversy is erupting in the Alabama special US Senate election as we begin to enter the last month of campaigning before the Dec. 12 vote.

The Washington Post broke a story late last week (above) that accuses former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) of engaging in sexual contact with a 14-year old girl 38 years ago. At the time, Judge Moore would have been 32 years of age. The judge vehemently denies the charges and strikes back against the Post saying the story is politically motivated. Republican officials in Alabama are generally still supportive of Moore. Washington Republicans, who made public statements, expressed the opinion that Moore should step away from the race if the allegations are true.

In actuality, there is no legal way to remove Moore’s name from the ballot even if there is Republican unanimity to do so. Ballots are printed, some absentee packets have already been mailed to voters, and the law specifically states that a change of nominees cannot be made once the campaign moves within 76 days of the election. For this contest, the point-of-no-return date occurred on Sept. 28.

Suggestions range from running defeated Sen. Luther Strange as a write-in candidate, calling the state legislature into special session to pass emergency legislation to change the election law, or simply refusing to seat Moore should he win the Dec. 12 election. If they choose the latter route, another special election would have to be called and scheduled, and the cycle begins anew.

For his part, Moore is already launching fundraising appeals lashing out at his accusers and begging for resource help in order to fight back. He shows no indication that he will relinquish his position as the US Senate nominee.

More will clearly come of this story during the coming week.

VA-6

Continuing what looks to be a series of House incumbent retirements, veteran 13-term Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that he, too, will depart when the current Congress adjourns. The timing coincides with his allotted chairmanship tenure also coming to an end.

Goodlatte becomes the 34th regular cycle member not to seek re-election next year, and the 24th Republican. This total does not include the PA-18 vacancy (former Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pittsburgh) that will be filled on March 13. The latest vacant seat was filled earlier this week when Utah Rep-Elect John Curtis (R-Provo) was elected to replace resigned Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy).

Though the open GOP list now reaches 24 seats, 17 of them are safely or likely Republican. Only two are in the toss-up category (FL-27, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami; NJ-2, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-Ventnor City), and another five are rated as lean Republican.

Virginia’s 6th District is safely in the GOP column. Goodlatte averaged 77.6 percent of the vote over his 13 congressional elections. The district hugs the West Virginia border and runs north to south along Interstate 81 from Strasburg through Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Lexington, continuing south all the way to Roanoke, with a jut westward to annex the Lynchburg region. President Trump carried the 6th, 60-35 percent, while Mitt Romney outpaced President Barack Obama here, 60-40percent.

Analyzing the Virginia Victory

virginia-2017-election-map

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 10, 2017 — Now that the political dust is settling over the Old Dominion, we are better able to analyze the Democrats’ Virginia victory.

While Democrats retained all three of the statewide positions they previously held: governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general, they almost succeeded (and, still may) in capturing the state House of Delegates. Prior to the vote, this was thought to be an unattainable task for one election. Though most of the news analysis suggests the result translates into a statewide backlash against President Trump, looking deeper into the numbers indicates that such may be only partially true.

It appears the Democratic sweep came about largely because of overwhelming strength in Northern Virginia. While the anti-Trump analysis may be too simplistic to explain the entire state’s voting pattern, we can ascertain that such is the case in the northern sector.

To re-cap the House of Delegates, Democrats teeter on wresting the majority away from Republicans. Two of the races have turned the Republicans’ way as the final canvass in Fairfax County and Newport News have placed the GOP incumbents ahead by just a few votes, 12 to be specific in the latter case.

Five campaigns, including the two aforementioned, are not officially called. Should all of the current race leaders remain in their respective positions through what are sure to be recounts and legal challenges, Republicans will maintain a 51-49 chamber majority, meaning a huge net gain of 15 seats for the Democrats.

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Election Day: Before vs. After

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 10, 2017 — Voters went to the polls in three places Tuesday to elect two governors, state legislators, and a new member of Congress. Multiple local elections, including mayoral contests in 59 of the nation’s largest cities, with New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Charlotte among them, also were on the various ballots.

Much was written and discussed about the Virginia gubernatorial election leading into Election Day, clearly the most important contest from a political perspective. It appeared clear that the campaign between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie was a tight one. That proved not to be the case with Northam’s nine-point win.

Polling suggested that either candidate could win. Most surveys showed either a dead heat or Northam maintaining a small lead. Research for the last Virginia gubernatorial race, that in 2013 when Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was elected, badly under-estimated Republican strength. Therefore, should the same methodologies be present in this latest data, Gillespie’s chances of victory may be better than the raw numbers indicate. That line of thinking was dashed by the results.

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Dems Score Big; Curtis Wins in Utah;
VA House: 12 Votes to a Win

By Jim Ellis

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is also a pediatric neurosurgeon

Virginia governor-elect Ralph Northam (D) is also a pediatric neurosurgeon

Nov. 8, 2017 — Democrats came roaring back, particularly in the Virginia elections last night, as Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) easily outpaced former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie to win the open Virginia governorship, keeping the position in the Democratic column. Northam scored a 54-45 percent win over Gillespie in a race that most pollsters projected to be much closer.

It appeared that Gillespie had momentum at the end of the past week, but last day polling again found Northam beginning to pull away. Those surveys correctly detected the final trend, as did the Quinnipiac University polls and Christopher Newport University’s final study, all considered outliers because the big margins extrapolated for Northam were outside the polling realm for the other dozen-plus polls released during the closing two-week period. In the end, the actual victory margin was nearer to the previously rejected polls.

Curiously, Gillespie ran behind the two other Republicans on the statewide ticket. All in a losing effort, lieutenant governor candidate Jill Vogel (R) pulled almost 50,000 more votes than the gubernatorial nominee, while attorney general nominee John Adams attracted just under 38,000 more. This could possibly be attributed to left over bad feelings generated from the close Republican primary election that saw Gillespie barely defeat Prince William County Board chairman and immigration policy activist Corey Stewart. Many Stewart voters stated that they would not support Gillespie in the general election, and it may well be that many of them followed through on their “promise.”

‘Many [Corey] Stewart voters stated that they would not support Gillespie in the general election, and it may well be that many of them followed through on their “promise.” ‘

Turning to New Jersey, the pollsters, who uniformly produced consistent data on this race throughout the general election cycle, proved correct. Former US Ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D), as expected, recorded a 55-43 percent win over Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R). Murphy converts the governor’s mansion for the Democrats after eight years of having Republican Chris Christie.

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