Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Feingold Up in Wisconsin;
Candidates Swarm to MS-1 Special

Wisconsin Senate

A new Public Policy Polling survey posts former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) to a 50-41 percent lead over first-term incumbent Ron Johnson (R) according to just-released data.

The poll, however, (March 6-8; 1,017 registered Wisconsin voters) may be a better indication of what happens to former politicians once they leave office for an extended period of time instead of a clear forecast of the upcoming campaign. Typically, former office holders are viewed more favorably the longer they have been out of office, as Feingold’s 46:35 percent approval ratio attests. Five years ago, the Wisconsin electorate defeated him 52-47 percent, preferring newcomer Johnson.

Irrespective of political history, the polling result certainly doesn’t bode well for Sen. Johnson. His own job approval is an upside-down 32:40 percent, which is not too surprising for a PPP survey. The firm typically finds public officials of both parties holding negative ratings, much more so than other firms.

This latest Wisconsin study is no exception. Of the eight current and former politicians tested, only two, Feingold and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), had positive ratings. The state’s other senator, first-term Democrat Tammy Baldwin, is also in negative territory. The poll respondents rated her performance as 38:42 percent favorable to unfavorable.
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Kentucky Action for Paul;
Without Hillary?

Kentucky Senate

The Kentucky Republican Party Executive Committee members just did Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) a big favor. The panel is recommending that the full GOP state committee change the Blue Grass State’s presidential nominating format from a primary to a caucus.

The move would help Sen. Paul because, at least in the short term, it would allow him to simultaneously seek re-election and run for president. But, selling this to the state convention delegates (they meet in August) might not be so easy, since a negative ramification could result from adopting such a change.

Under Kentucky law, an individual may not appear on the ballot for two offices in the same election. By switching to a caucus format, no state ballot would be involved because the caucuses are comprised of an internal party series of meetings and does not involve the state election system.
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The Musical Chairs Begin

Maryland Senate

Rep. Donna Edwards’ (D-MD-4) announcement that she will run for the Senate launches the Maryland political chess game. As we already know, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) is officially in the race and moving quickly toward establishing himself. Van Hollen jump-started the political time line with his formal declaration at the end of last week, and now Edwards is quickly following suit.

Seeing two DC area Maryland politicians – Edwards in Prince Georges County and Van Hollen hailing from Montgomery County – in the open Senate race, we can soon expect a move from the Baltimore contingent. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake personally re-confirmed that she is “seriously considering” running for the Senate. Edwards’ presence also forces Baltimore Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-MD-7) hand, now that it is clear he will not be the only African American House member to potentially join the statewide effort. Part of Edwards’ goal in so definitively announcing is an attempt to encapsulate Cummings, making it clear that his path to the Senate will not be an easy one.
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Reid Endorses Van Hollen; Strickland Ties Portman

Maryland Senate

In a surprising development, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has already given his personal endorsement to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8), the recently announced Maryland senatorial candidate. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) announced last week that she will retire at the end of the current Congress, launching what promises to be a very crowded Democratic primary to replace her.

Van Hollen has been on the inside of the House Democratic leadership almost since his original election in 2002, and he is known as a highly ambitious politician. Therefore, through his positioning within the House conference, the Montgomery County congressman was able to develop a relationship with Sen. Reid. But, it is still unusual that a Senate leader would involve himself so quickly in a contested primary when so many Democratic delegation members appear inclined to run. Speculation continues that Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4), for example, is just days away from announcing her own candidacy.

In other Maryland news, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz (D) announced that he will not enter the Senate race. Kamenetz had been prominently mentioned as a possible candidate in the early speculation immediately after Sen. Mikulski’s announcement.
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Two More Open House Seats in 2016

A pair of House members just announced that they will not seek re-election next year. One is running for Senate, while the other is retiring. The two political moves mean there are now nine vacant or open House seats (6R; 3D) just two months into the 114th Congress.

MI-10

House Administration Committee chair Candice Miller (R) announced last week that she will not seek re-election to an eighth term. She originally won her seat in 2002, after serving eight years as Michigan’s Secretary of State.

Long mentioned as a possible statewide candidate, rumors are circulating that Rep. Miller may run for governor or potentially launch a future challenge to US Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Michigan will host an open governor’s race in 2018 because incumbent Rick Snyder (R) will be ineligible to seek a third term. At least for now, she is planning to return to private life at the end of the current Congress.
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