Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Dixon Won’t Run for Senate; Pelosi Successor Waiting in the Wings; A Gonzales Challenger; A Republican Leads Liberal Group’s Poll

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Senate

Michigan School Board member Nikki Snyder (R)

Michigan: Tudor Dixon Won’t Run for Senate — Over the weekend, Tudor Dixon, the defeated 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate, announced she will not join the forming open US Senate field. Last week, three-term US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) entered the race, and is widely viewed as the favorite for the Democratic nomination and the seat. In December, four-term incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D) announced that she will retire at the end of this Congress.

We can soon expect more Republican action in this race. Michigan School Board member Nikki Snyder is the only announced GOP candidate. Others reportedly considering the race are US Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland), and former Reps. Fred Upton, Mike Rogers, and Peter Meijer.

House

CA-11: Pelosi Successor Waiting in the Wings — California state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is making his political future known. Anticipating that former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) will not seek re-election in 2024, Sen. Wiener has filed a congressional exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission. He says he will run for the 11th District seat, which covers most of the San Francisco peninsula, if Rep. Pelosi decides to retire.

He could be getting the jump on another scenario, also. Should Ambassador to the Holy See Joe Donnelly (D) resign later this year to mount a race for governor of Indiana as many believe he will, odds are strong that Pelosi will be appointed as his replacement. If so, a special election would then be scheduled for District 11. The ambassador of the United States to the Holy See is the official representative of the United States of America to the Holy See, the leadership of the Catholic Church. Before his ambassadorial appointment, Donnelly served both in the House and Senate. He was defeated for re-election to the Senate in 2018.

TX-23: Rep. Gonzales’ Primary Challenge — US Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-San Antonio), after the Texas Republican Party recently voted to censure him for his support of gun control legislation, voting for the establishment of the January 6th Committee, and border legislation that the organization felt was not strong enough, drew Republican primary opposition. Medina County Republican Party chair Julie Clark announced that she will challenge the two-term incumbent who in 2022 scored the largest re-election percentage (55.9 percent) for any Republican since former Rep. Henry Bonilla’s 2004 victory.

Governor

North Carolina: GOP Lieutenant Governor Leads Liberal Group’s Poll — Raleigh based Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of the North Carolina electorate for the progressive left Forward Carolina organization (March 2-3; 704 registered North Carolina voters) and finds an unsurprisingly tight battle developing between unannounced gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson (R), the state’s lieutenant governor, and Attorney General Josh Stein (D) who is an official contender. The poll results find the two locked in a dead heat with Robinson holding a 44-42 percent edge. The lieutenant governor’s strong 56-28 percent showing in the state’s substantial rural areas is what catapults him to the lead.

Robinson was elected lieutenant governor as a Republican in 2020 despite now term-limited Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper (D) winning re-election. Robinson carried the state 51.6 – 48.4 percent. Attorney General Stein survived a close re-election battle in the same year, slipping past his Republican opponent with only a 50.1 – 49.9 percent victory margin. The open NC governor’s race will undoubtedly feature a tight finish.

Surprising VA Presidential Poll Numbers; Race for Slotkin’s Open Seat; NC Political Gerrymandering Case

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, March 7, 2023

President

Virginia Glenn Youngkin (R) tops Biden in VA poll.

Roanoke College Poll: Surprising VA Numbers — Roanoke College just released their new Virginia general electorate poll that tested three GOP candidates or potential candidates against President Biden. The survey (Feb. 12-25; 585 Virginia registered voters; live interview) finds the Commonwealth’s own governor, Glenn Youngkin (R), as enjoying the best standing against the president, and in major fashion.

According to this sampling universe, which the pollsters say has a D+5 partisan complexion, Gov. Youngkin would swamp the president, 55-39 percent, in what has become a reliable Democratic state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would also top President Biden. His margin is 48-43 percent. Former President Donald Trump, however, would still trail President Biden, but by only a single point, 47-46 percent.

GOP strategists would have to see these types of results repeating themselves for Virginia to become a top tier target state. In 2020, President Biden carried the state, 54-44 percent. In 2016, Hillary Clinton topped Trump, 49.7 – 44.4 percent. Roanoke College is rated as a B/C pollster according to the FiveThirtyEight independent pollster ratings.

House

MI-7: Potentially Yes, and No — With three-term Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) now officially in the Senate race, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor (D) announced that he has launched a congressional exploratory committee to assess his chances of winning what will be a competitive open seat contest. Conversely, former Congressman Mike Bishop (R), who Rep. Slotkin unseated in 2018, said he will not run. Saying he doesn’t live in the new 7th District, Bishop said, “I know it’s the trend lately to run in districts where you don’t live, but I have no interest in that.”

The 7th District, which includes territory in and around the state’s capital city of Lansing, is politically marginal and one of only 20 districts where the FiveThirtyEight and Dave’s Redistricting App data organizations disagree as to how the partisan lean breaks. The 538 group rates MI-7 as R+4, while Dave’s App finds the partisan spread to be 49.2D – 47.7R.

States

SCOTUS: NC Political Gerrymandering Case Could be Dropped — Speculation is mounting that the US Supreme Court will drop the North Carolina political gerrymandering and judicial authority case, even though the justices have already conducted oral arguments. After the SCOTUS hearing, the new North Carolina Supreme Court, now with a 5R-2D majority, scheduled reconsideration hearings on two election cases that the former state Supreme Court, just before leaving office, had ruled upon. The 4D-3R court declared both the NC Senate district lines and the state’s voter ID law unconstitutional in separate rulings.

Since the state Supreme Court is now actively considering cases that generally come under the purview of what SCOTUS is considering, the national court may defer to the state court, which would make the case before them moot.

Regardless of what happens pertaining to these federal and state election law cases, it is clear the state legislature plans to replace the interim court maps for the US House, state House, and state Senate. Expect a great deal of action coming from North Carolina in the coming months. It is possible that we could see a three-seat Republican gain in the 7D-7R current delegation map.

Hogan Won’t Run for President; RFK Jr. May Soon Announce; No Senate Run for Nevada’s Amodei; OR-6 Candidate Redux; New Orleans’ Mayoral Recall

By Jim Ellis — Monday, March 6, 2023

President

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R)

Gov. Larry Hogan: Won’t Run for President — Over the weekend, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he would not join the Republican presidential field. Hogan explaining his decision said, “I have long said that I care more about ensuring a future for the Republican Party than securing my own future in the Republican Party.”

Hogan had previously expressed his analysis that a crowded Republican field would only help Donald Trump win renomination, something the former Free State governor wants to see avoided. He also indicated his belief that with Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis running far ahead of the lesser-known candidates, it doesn’t leave the lower tier contenders much of an opportunity to compete for the win.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. May Soon Announce Presidential Campaign — Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator and attorney general, Robert F. Kennedy, is moving closer to announcing a presidential campaign. It appears he will run in the Democratic primary on an anti-vaccination platform. Kennedy became a national activist opposing mandatory vaccinations during the Covid shutdown.

It is possible that he could win the New Hampshire primary. President Biden may not enter the Granite State nomination contest if the NH leadership doesn’t recognize the new Democratic National Committee schedule that takes New Hampshire out of their traditional first-in-the-nation voting position. Therefore, it is quite possible that the primary race could come down to a contest between Kennedy and author Marianne Williamson, who formally announced her own candidacy on Saturday.

Senate

Nevada: Rep. Amodei Won’t Run for Senate — Nevada’s lone Republican Congressman, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City), said on Friday that he will not challenge Sen. Jacky Rosen (D) next year. The Nevada race should be one of the most competitive campaigns in the country, just as it was in 2022. In that election, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) slipped past GOP challenger Adam Laxalt by only a 7,928-vote margin (48.8 – 48.0 percent), which was the closest raw vote spread of all ‘22 Senate campaigns.

At this point, Republicans have no announced candidate, but that will soon change. Along with Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia, the Nevada race will eventually become one of the Republicans’ 2024 top-tier challenge races. Disabled Iraq War veteran and 2022 Senate candidate Sam Brown is considering running again. No one else has so far made a move to enter the Senate race including the state’s two down ballot constitutional officers, Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony and state Controller Andy Matthews. Look for this race to become the top candidate recruitment target for the national Republican leadership.

House

OR-6: 2022 Candidate Will Try Again — Dundee Mayor David Russ (R) announced on Friday that he will return to again run for Congress in 2024. In the previous election, Russ placed sixth in a field of seven Republican candidates with only 3.8 percent of the vote, more than 30 percentage points behind the GOP nominee, Mike Erickson. Erickson would hold then-state Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Tigard) to a 50-48 percent victory margin in the 6th District’s first ever congressional race. Due to population growth, Oregon was awarded a new seat in the 2020 national reapportionment formula.

The 6th will again yield a competitive race, but chances will likely prove that the Republicans’ best chance to win this district occurred in the last election. Rep. Salinas will begin as the favorite to hold the seat in the ’24 cycle.

Cities

New Orleans: Mayoral Recall Drive Changes — The signature petition drive to qualify a recall effort against New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) is continuing toward a March 22 deadline. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has set 45,000 valid registered voter signatures as the number necessary to force a recall vote.

Mayor Cantrell was elected in 2017 and was easily re-elected in 2021. The NoLaToya campaign is centered upon the rising murder and crime rate in the city, along with a decline in local services. It remains to be seen if the committee can gather the necessary number of petition signatures in order to schedule a recall election.

A Rematch in Michigan; Dems to Target NY-22; RI Special Election Emerges; the Race for WVa Gov.

By Jim Ellis — Friday, March 3, 2023

House

Former local judge and ex-Macomb County prosecutor Carl Marlinga (D)

MI-10: Re-Match Likely — Michigan’s new Detroit suburban 10th District was drawn as a competitive seat, and the 48.8 – 48.3 percent finish in Republican John James’ favor certainly lent support to the pre-election predictions. Though he did not contest the original outcome by calling for a recount, it appears that former local judge and ex-Macomb County prosecutor Carl Marlinga (D) is reportedly telling supporters that he is planning to return for a re-match.

Rep. James (R-Farmington Hills), who twice lost tight US Senate battles, has already said he will not join the open statewide 2024 candidate field so he can defend this politically marginal House district. We can expect another major competitive battle here next year.

NY-22: Democrat Already Exits — Freshman Rep. Brandon Williams (R-Syracuse) is a newcomer to elected politics and is expected to be a major Democratic target in the 2024 election considering he is one of less than 20 members holding a district opposite of the electorate’s partisan lean. Only weeks ago, Manlius Town Council member Katelyn Kriesel announced that she would file to oppose the new congressman next year. However, she opted out of the race on Wednesday citing family reasons.

NY-22 will be a major target, but for the short term, anyway, Democrats lack a candidate. Expect one to emerge, but now it appears that time is favoring Rep. Williams.

RI-1: Movement Beginning for Special Election Battle — Last week, Rhode Island US Rep. David Cicilline (D-Providence) announced that he will be resigning his seat on June 1 to become president & CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation, a funding organization that supports projects in the Ocean State. The move means we will see a special election in the state’s 1st District later this year.

So far, Attorney General Peter Neronha (D) says he will not run for the congressional seat, but others are assessing their political prospects. Two who appear to be leaning toward running are state House Speaker Joe Shekarchi (D-Warwick) and Biden White House aide Gabe Amo (D).

Other potential candidates include Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos (D), former Secretary of State and ex-gubernatorial candidate Nellie Gorbea (D), state Senate Majority Leader Ryan Pearson (D-Cumberland), and many local mayors and state legislators. The battle will be in the Democratic primary since the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates RI-1 as a heavily Democratic district at D+32.

Governor

West Virginia: State Auditor Enters Open Race — Elected state Auditor J.B. McCluskey (R) announced that he will forego re-election to become an open-race gubernatorial candidate. Gov. Jim Justice (R) is ineligible to seek a third term but may declare his candidacy opposite Sen. Joe Machin (D) in the next few days.

McCuskey and Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) are the only statewide officials in the candidate field. State Delegate Moore Capito (R-Charleston), son of Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R), and businessman Chris Miller (R), son of US Rep. Carol Miller (R-Huntington), are already in the field along with private preschool owner Rashida Yost (R) and rancher Terri Bradshaw (R). No Democratic candidate has yet stepped forward.

Presidential Data Points; Williamson Challenges Biden; Dems Look for Cruz Challenger; Slotkin’s Senate Track; Wilson to Announce for Louisiana Governor’s Race?

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, March 2, 2023

President

Former President Donald Trump; Florida Gov. Ron Desantis

Emerson College Poll: National Data Reveals Interesting Underlying Points — Emerson College is reporting the results of their latest national survey (Feb. 24-25; 1,060 registered US voters; interactive voice response system & online panel) and while some of the results are consistent with other polling – former President Trump leading Gov. Ron DeSantis and the GOP field by a wide margin nationally; President Biden upside-down on the job approval question (44:50 percent) – other data points are proving more interesting.

First, in the general election ballot test, Trump records a 46-42 percent edge over President Biden nationally, which is one of his better polling showings. Second, in contrast to several other recent national polls, the 476 tested Democratic primary voters give overwhelming support, 71 percent, to President Biden as the 2024 party nominee. Interestingly, a whopping 85 percent within the youngest segment, those aged 18-34, are supportive of this position. Third, while Trump records a 55-25 percent national lead over Gov. DeSantis, the latter manages to gain among Hispanics, college educated Republican voters, GOP voters over 65, and Midwest respondents when compared with Emerson’s January poll.

Marianne Williamson: Biden’s First Dem Challenger Emerges — Author Marianne Williamson (D), who ran for President in 2020 but fared very poorly in that year’s Democratic nomination campaign, said she will formally announce her 2024 national campaign on Saturday. Williamson will not become a major factor in the race, but could earn some delegates in New Hampshire if the state fails to adhere to the Democratic National Committee schedule and, as a result, President Biden decides not to enter the state’s primary. Otherwise, a Williamson campaign will be a non-factor.

Senate

Texas: New Democrat Potential Candidate Emerging — Democratic leaders have been attempting to recruit a strong opponent for Sen. Ted Cruz (R) as he seeks a third term next year, and most of the early speculation has centered around former HUD Secretary, presidential candidate, and ex-San Antonio mayor, Julian Castro, and US representative and former NFL football player Colin Allred (D-Dallas). With neither man so far jumping into the race, statements from Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, as reported in the Daily Kos Elections blog, suggest that outgoing Houston mayor and former veteran state Rep. Sylvester Turner may be moving toward becoming a candidate.

Democrats are expected to make a run at Sen. Cruz, but in a presidential election year with the turnout model almost assuredly favoring the eventual Republican presidential nominee the future Democratic candidate will be in a decided underdog position.

Michigan: Rep. Slotkin’s Senate Track — Three-term US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing), as expected for weeks, formally announced that she will run for the Senate next year. In December, four-term incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D) announced that she will retire at the end of this Congress. Rep. Slotkin, one of the more prolific fundraisers in the House, is already perceived as the favorite for the Democratic nomination and the general election.

Though there was much activity right after Sen. Stabenow announced that she would step down, only one elected official, Michigan School Board member Nikki Snyder (R), has actually declared her candidacy until Rep. Slotkin made her intention known.

While Rep. Slotkin has the inside track to the Democratic nomination and may not even face a significant intra-party opponent, several Republicans are still contemplating whether to run for the open Senate seat. Among them are former gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, US Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland), and former Reps. Fred Upton, Mike Rogers, and Peter Meijer.

Prominent Michigan politicos who have said they will not run for the Senate include Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist (D), Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), US Reps. Haley Stevens (D-Birmingham) and John James (R-Farmington Hills), and state Senate Majority Whip Mallory McMorrow (D-Oakland and Wayne Counties).

House

CA-12: First Open-Seat Candidate Emerges — Bay Area Rapid Transit Board member Lateefah Simon (D) became the first individual to announce her candidacy for California’s new open 12th District, which encompasses the cities of Oakland and Berkeley. Twelve-term Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) is leaving the House to run for the Senate.

The 12th, a coalition majority minority seat, is the most Democratic district in this bluest of states. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates it D+77, while the Dave’s Redistricting App partisan lean finds a 89.7D – 8.3R spread. Therefore, two Democrats advancing to the general election in what is expected to be a crowded all-party qualifying election field is a virtual certainty.

Potential candidates include state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Assemblywomen Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (D), and several local officials.

Governor

Louisiana: Democrats Uniting — While the candidate filing deadline for this year’s Louisiana governor’s race is still more than five months away, Democrats appear to already be uniting behind one candidate. Shawn Wilson is the outgoing state Secretary of Transportation who will be resigning from office on March 4. His official gubernatorial announcement will come soon after. Gary Chambers (D), who ran against Sen. John Kennedy (R) last year and was viewed as a potential candidate now says he will not run and is lining up behind Wilson. Term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has already given his tacit endorsement to Wilson.

All of this likely means Wilson will surely advance into the general election runoff. Republicans will split their votes, thus ensuring that no candidate will reach the 50 percent mark in the Oct. 14 all-party jungle primary. The top two finishers will advance into the Nov. 18 general, meaning Wilson will await the outcome of a tight GOP gubernatorial nomination contest. Republicans will be favored to convert the Louisiana governorship, but Democrats are clearly doing their best to correctly position themselves for the autumn election.

Lightfoot Loses in Chicago

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Mayoral Race: Lightfoot Loses in Chicago — The Chicago non-partisan mayoral primary is unofficially complete and as recent polling suggested was a possible outcome, incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) fell in defeat last night without even qualifying for the secondary runoff election.

Chicago Public Schools former CEO Paul Vallas and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson will advance to the April 4 election, and that vote will decide who becomes the new mayor. Vallas secured first place with 172,093 votes, translating into 33.9 percent preference. Commissioner Johnson scored 103,387 votes, or 20.3 percent.

Mayor Lightfoot finished a poor third in the field of nine candidates. She only recorded 86,952 votes for just 17.1 percent support. To put this number in perspective, almost 83 percent of the people voting chose a candidate other than the incumbent, an incredibly poor performance for any office holder.

In the 2019 election, Lightfoot secured 97,667 votes, or 10,715 more votes than she received last night. In the runoff from four years ago, Lightfoot was subsequently a landslide 74 percent winner over then-Cook County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle.

Turnout from the last two primaries was similar. At this point, more than 509,556 votes have been recorded, but this will not be the final total. In 2019, a total of 518,194 ballots were cast in the primary election.

US Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago), who began as the campaign’s polling leader, finished fourth with 70,006 votes and 13.7 percent. He returns to the House to finish the new term he won last November.

Conversely, Vallas greatly improved his standing since the 2019 mayoral election. In fact, he completed a worst to first turnaround, since he finished dead last four years ago within a different field of nine candidates. In that year, Vallas managed to only garner 30,236 votes or just 5.4 percent. Therefore, at this point with post-election reception ballots still to count, he will likely improve his standing by more than six times his previous vote total.

It appears crime was the driving issue; that explains both Vallas’ rise to the top, since he is the most ardent supporter of tough penalties for law breakers, and Lightfoot’s fall from political grace, largely due to her image of being soft on criminals.

Since she took office, according to Chicago Police Department crime statistics, murder had increased 59 percent, but that number pales in comparison to motor vehicle theft, which rose 270 percent during the same period. While theft and robbery increased 31 and 27 percent, respectively, during her tenure, burglary actually decreased 18 percent. Sexual crimes also decreased in the four-year period, by two percentage points.

Though a Democrat, Vallas was clearly the most conservative candidate in the non-partisan primary race and his runoff campaign against the more progressive Commissioner Johnson promises to be an interesting one.

Vallas will likely continue making the election a referendum on the crime and safety issue. Since Commissioner Johnson is known to favor less strict protocols for combating crime, a contrasting campaign on this issue will be Vallas’ clear strategic goal.

Johnson will attack the former schools CEO over his pro-life position, and attempt to make the election about a broad-based group of issues, thus allowing him to strike an overall ideological contrast.

Biden Weak Among Dems; Desantis Leads Trump; Two Potential Michigan Candidates Decline to Run; Chicago’s Lightfoot Trails in Mayoral Race

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023

President

President Joe Biden

National Polling: Biden Weak Among Dem Voters — While First Lady Jill Biden was questioning over the weekend why people are not fully believing that President Biden is running for re-election when he has repeatedly said that he is, national Democratic primary voter polling since the 2022 election suggests internal weakness for the party’s incumbent. Though Democrats generally rate his job performance as very positive, a large percentage would also prefer another candidate run in 2024.

For example, the new California Field Poll conducted at the University of California at Berkeley (Feb. 14-20; 7,51 registered California voters; online) finds 86 percent of the state’s Democrats approving of President Biden’s job performance, but only 57 percent of this same segment favor him running for re-election.

Four national Democratic primary polls have been conducted since the 2022 election from Emerson College, YouGov, Reuters/Ipsos, and Harvard University/Harris; just among Democrats, President Biden only scores between 35-42 percent preference within a hypothetical field of notable Democratic potential candidates. Though this suggests weakness for renomination, it doesn’t appear that the president will face major intra-party competition as he begins his 2024 campaign.

California: DeSantis Leads Trump — The California Field Poll conducted at the University of California at Berkeley (Feb. 14-20; 7,512 registered California voters; 1,755 self-identified California Republican voters; online) also looked at the Republican presidential field. The statewide totals find Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an unannounced candidate for president, topping former President Donald Trump, 37-29 percent, with former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recording seven percent preference. All other potential Republican candidates score support figures of four percent or less.

The important point to remember about the California Republican nomination system is that the state selects delegates through its 52 congressional districts. Therefore, though DeSantis may be leading in the statewide count, the nomination battle is determined through the votes tabulated in the individual congressional districts. This system could make the California primary a wild card state on Super Tuesday.

Senate

Michigan: Two Say No — Two-time GOP US Senate nominee John James, who won the 10th District US House race last November, says he will not compete for Michigan’s open Senate seat next year and will instead defend his politically marginal congressional district in a bid for re-election. James was one of the national Republicans’ top Senate prospects, but his decision is good news for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

For the Democrats, state Senate Majority Whip Mallory McMorrow (D-Oakland and Wayne Counties) also said she will not enter the US Senate race. Though candidate speculation has been heavy, only Michigan School Board member Nikki Snyder (R) has announced her Senate candidacy among current elected officials. After much speculation and anticipation, Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing) entered the Senate race yesterday, saying in a campaign video that “We all know America is going through something right now, we seem to be living crisis to crisis,” after which she speaks to a relatively broad agenda. “Look, our country is going to get through this,” she declares. “It’s hard work, but that’s what Michiganders do.” In December, four-term incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) announced that she would not seek a fifth term.

Cities

Chicago: Closing Mayoral Poll Suggests Defeat for Incumbent Lori Lightfoot — The Chicago non-partisan mayoral primary is today, and a closing poll from M3 Strategies (Feb. 20-21; 450 likely Chicago voters) gives former Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas a substantial lead with 32 percent of the vote. Vallas is a Democrat but widely seen as the most conservative candidate in the nine-person field.

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who Reps. Jonathan Jackson (D-Chicago) and Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago) support, is second with an 18 percent support factor. Mayor Lori Lightfoot now trails with only 14 percent backing, and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago), who once led the race, drops all the way back to fourth position at 12 percent preference. Though all the candidates are relatively close, the poll shows the real possibility that Mayor Lightfoot would fail to qualify for the runoff election.

The city is reporting that over 210,000 mail ballots have been requested. Since the ballots may be postmarked on election day, Feb. 28, it could be several days before final tallies are reported. Under Chicago election law, however, mail ballots received before election may be counted early and added to the initial public reports on election night. If no candidate receives majority support in today’s election, which is a virtual certainty, the top two finishers will advance to an April 4 runoff contest.