Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Nugent to Retire

Nov. 4, 2015 — Three-term Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL-11), the former Hernando County Sheriff, surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek re-election next year, making this the 26th open seat for the 2016 election cycle.

Nugent cited the long absences from his family and a lesser desire to serve as chief reasons for retiring after a short stint in the House. According to his announcement release the congressman stated, “we care deeply about shrinking the size and scope of government; we care deeply about restoring America’s place in the world. We’ll get somebody new with real fire in the belly who shares our beliefs and is ready to give it a shot in Washington.”

Nugent’s tenure in office was not without controversy. A former member of the House Rules Committee, the congressman was relieved of his post when he voted for fellow Florida Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL-10) in the early 2015 Speaker’s election. In response, then-House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) quickly removed both men as members of the partisan rules body.

His first election to the House raised eyebrows as well. When Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL-5) retired in 2010, she did so just as the filing deadline expired, thereby giving then-Sheriff Nugent the only inside track to the seat. He was the one potential major candidate who was given pre-announcement notice of the impending vacancy, and took full advantage of the lack of competition for the open House seat.

The Central Florida 11th District stretches from Ocala and The Villages communities in the northeast, west to the Gulf of Mexico, and then south as far as Spring Hill. The relatively compact seat is safely Republican and did not experience much change as it relates to the proposed congressional re-districting map that currently sits before the sate Supreme Court.

It is in this area that Nugent may have tipped his hand too early. The proposed redistricting plan makes only cosmetic changes to his CD and leaves it intact as a core Republican seat. But, the plan is not yet final, and seeing that they have another open seat to work with, it is conceivable the court could still change the boundaries to provide a better geographic flow and benefit the Democrats. The seat sits between Rep. Corinne Brown’s (D-FL-5) Jacksonville-Gainesville-Sanford-Orlando district and representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13) and Kathy Castor’s (D-FL-14) CDs, both in the Tampa Bay region. All of these districts were declared illegal, and the Nugent seat is certainly close enough to all of them to make further late changes plausible.

FL-11 now becomes the fifth open seat just in the Sunshine State. Nugent joins representatives Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6), Alan Grayson (D-FL-9), David Jolly (R-FL-13), and Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) as members who will not be returning to Congress as House members after the next election. DeSantis, Grayson and Murphy are all running for the Senate.

It is also possible that Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), who the redistricting plan displaced from her 2nd District in the northern Florida Panhandle, will also join the list of House members not seeking re-election. She may enter the Senate race, challenge fellow Democratic Rep. Corinne Brown for the newly constituted 5th District that now will encompass the city of Tallahassee, which is Graham’s political base, or skip an election and run for a statewide post in 2018. The congresswoman says she will decide her 2016 political plans once the new congressional lines become final.

Rand Paul’s Dilemma

Nov. 3, 2015 — It’s no secret that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has under-performed in the presidential contest, and the question on most political observers and analysts’ minds is when will he exit the race? Unlike all of the other candidates, Sen. Paul must defend his elected position in 2016. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) originally faced the same decision, but long ago announced that he would forego running for a second senatorial term in order to fully concentrate on his presidential campaign.

A new Vox Populi poll (Oct. 26-27; 618 KY registered voters) surveying the Kentucky electorate on the eve of their gubernatorial election (Tuesday, Nov. 3) also tested Sen. Paul in a hypothetical re-election effort. According to these results, Paul only maintains a 47-38 percent lead over state auditor, Adam Edelen (D), who is merely a prospective Democratic candidate. The Democrats’ first choice to challenge the incumbent is outgoing Gov. Steve Beshear (D), but he has given no indication of having any interest in the federal position when his final term ends in January.

Based upon the governor’s results, the Vox polling sample might have a slight Republican skew, meaning Paul’s situation could conceivably be more precarious. The governor numbers find Republican Matt Bevin tied with Attorney General Jack Conway (44 percent apiece), which is considerably better than the other recently published polls: last week both Survey USA and Western Kentucky University projected Conway as a 45-40 percent leader.

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Ryan Elected; House ’16 Outlook

Nov. 2, 2915 — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, became the Speaker of the House late last week, but what are his long-term prospects for remaining in the newly attained position? Ryan replaces Ohio’s John Boehner (R) who resigned from Congress Friday.

The vote of 236-184 represented all but 10 Republicans supporting the nine-term Wisconsin representative who was first elected at age 28 and a veteran chairman of two House committees (Budget; Ways & Means). Considering the fractured nature of today’s House Republican Conference, the vote was a show of strong unity for Ryan, which provides him a better mandate than Boehner had during his final term.

Ryan’s 1st District of Wisconsin stretches from his hometown of Janesville all the way to Racine, Kenosha, and Lake Michigan in his state’s southeastern corner. The 1st is a marginal district, but the new speaker long ago made it a safe seat for him. He is the first Wisconsin representative to become speaker and now the region’s most historically prominent congressman. Previously, the late Les Aspin (D), who held the 1st District for 22 years before becoming Defense Secretary under President Bill Clinton, was the most notable southern Wisconsin Representative.

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Already Nasty in Louisiana

Oct. 30, 2015 — Just two days after the Louisiana gubernatorial jungle primary, run-off participants Sen. David Vitter (R) and state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) and their allied Super PACs, are wasting no time launching hard-hitting attack ads in anticipation of the Nov. 21 general election.


It was clear the secondary campaign period was going to yield a nasty political affair, and the first ads may have already exceeded expectations. Edwards, knowing that Vitter would have to hit him hard because the latter has such poor approval ratings, comes out of the gate with an offensive defense of his record (above), predicting that Vitter will lie about him while simultaneously harpooning the senator throughout script.


But, the Super PAC ads go for the jugular. Gumbo PAC, a local trial lawyer financed anti-Vitter committee, features a well-conceived ad (above) comprised of clips from losing Republican gubernatorial candidates, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, with a two-fold purpose.

First, it shows Republican candidates viciously attacking a top GOP office holder in order to cement Vitter’s negative image, and second, reminding Angelle and Dardenne of their strong public anti-Vitter sentiments makes it more difficult for both to now endorse their Republican colleague, something that the sitting senator needs to better unite his party.


The Republican Governors Association immediately took to the airwaves to attack Edwards with the predicted strategic point of tying the Democratic gubernatorial nominee to an unpopular President Obama (above). They extend the political assault to include Edwards’ vote in the legislature to increase his own pay, what they say is cutting education funding, and then adding a new issue, that of the Democrat supporting “welfare for illegal aliens.”

The pre-election polling suggested that Edwards held what could be a substantial advantage over Sen. Vitter in the gubernatorial general election. But, those polls were taken before Edwards became an attack target. Shortly, we shall see what kind of an effect the ad messages are having upon the two-man race.

This governor’s contest could also change the 2016 US Senate campaigns, as we have previously discussed. Vitter’s seat is in-cycle next year and, should he become governor, the new chief executive will appoint his own successor. Such an individual will then be able to seek election to a full term as an appointed incumbent, an advantage that should negate most Republican opposition.

Should Vitter lose, which is now a distinct possibility, the senator will be faced with a tough decision whether to seek re-election. Seeing him fumble the governor’s race, the Democrats will come back with a strong campaign, thus possibly putting the seat in play. For Republicans to retain Senate control, the last thing they need is making what should be a safe seat competitive in a hotly contested national election cycle.

Hillary Storms Back; Kentucky Close

Oct. 29, 2015 — The first Democratic debate is proving to be an early turning point for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Prior to that event, Clinton was reeling and facing looming challenges ahead. Her strong performance may have at least partially contributed to Vice President Joe Biden’s decision to not enter the race. Her performance before the Benghazi Committee also helped her, and its momentum is a contributing factor to now launching her to a commanding lead in the latest Iowa polls.

Loras College, which released their Republican Iowa results earlier in the week, now reports a huge Clinton advantage over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. According to this data (Oct. 19-22; 500 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) the former First Lady is now taking a massive 62-24 percent lead over Sanders among those questioned in the Iowa poll. This is quite a reversal of fortunes considering that the Vermont self-proclaimed socialist had been leading in Iowa polling before the debate.

Monmouth University, in the field just after Loras (Oct. 22-25; 400 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders), confirms the latter’s result, finding even a slightly better 65-24 percent split in Clinton’s favor.

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