Author Archives: Jim Ellis

The House Opens With Losses

Not even three months into the new Congress, and already 10 US House members have left office or announced that the current term will be their last.

Below is a re-cap of the seats that will feature no incumbent in the next election:

CA-44:
Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) made formal her plans to seek a seat on the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 2016. Hahn’s late father, Kenneth Hahn, was a member of that body for 40 years. The Los Angeles County Administration Building is named in his honor. Winning a seat on the local board requires more than one million votes, but few have as strong Los Angeles area name identification as the Hahn family. Identifying her successor appears to be a foregone conclusion. State Sen. Isadore Hall (D-Carson) has Hahn’s endorsement and many other Los Angeles political figures are following suit. No other potential candidate is even mentioned at this point. Safe Democrat

LA-4: Rep. John Fleming (R-Minden) has repeatedly said he plans to run for the US Senate in 2016 if incumbent David Vitter (R) is elected governor later this year. If Vitter becomes the new governor he will choose is own replacement. Rep. Fleming says he wants the appointment, but will run whether or not he is chosen. Nothing substantial will happen here until the governor’s race concludes late this year. Safe Republican
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Harvard to Cruz’s Rescue

Journalist Charles Dudley Warner’s famous quote that “politics makes strange bedfellows” found yet another new example during the past few days.

A new Harvard Law Review article authored by two former US solicitor generals, one who served Pres. George W. Bush and the other in an acting capacity for President Obama, provides surprising support to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) argument that he is eligible to seek the presidency.

The senator is in a unique situation. He must overcome an obstacle that no other candidate need be concerned with merely to obtain ballot access. Born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father, there is an argument that Sen. Cruz does not fulfill the constitutional requirement for individuals running for president, that of being a “natural born citizen.”

Neal Katyal, who served briefly as acting US Solicitor General after Elena Kagan resigned to become a Justice of the Supreme Court, and Paul Clement, who President George W. Bush appointed to the position, co-authored their article entitled, “On the Meaning of Natural Born Citizen” for the Harvard Law Review. Their piece directly discusses the Cruz situation and provides ample legal argument to suggest that the Senator does fulfill the basic legal requirements to become a presidential candidate.
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Murphy Poised to Run in
Florida Senate Race

Politico is reporting that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) will announce a bid for the US Senate on March 23, giving us one more clue that Sen. Marco Rubio (R) will likely not seek re-election.

Murphy was first elected to the House in 2012, a post-redistricting upset winner against first-term Rep. Allen West (R) in a seat that should routinely elect more Republicans than Democrats. Last November, Murphy scored a solid 60-40 percent win over former state Rep. Carl Domino. The congressman raised and spent over $5 million in his re-election effort, proving that he has strong appeal within the Democratic donor community.

Sen. Rubio has been saying for months that he will not simultaneously attempt to run for president and re-election. More speculation is building that he will soon announce a presidential bid, thereby retiring from the Senate after one term. An open seat in swing Florida, arguably the most important state on the presidential election map, is a major negative for national Republicans but leaving the Senate is quite probably a strong personal move for Rubio, if his ultimate desire is to be elected president.

It appears the Democratic establishment is poised to support Murphy, whose more moderate record would make him a strong general election candidate but leaves him vulnerable in the party primary. Originally, representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23), the Democratic National Committee chair, and Alan Grayson (D-FL-9) were publicly contemplating running for the Senate, but now both appear to be backing away.
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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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