Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Indiana Gov. Holcomb Leaves Door Open for Senate Bid, Sen. Braun Up in Released Gov Poll; CA-22 Re-Match Already Building; NC Redistricting Case Could be Moot

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022

Senate

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R)

Indiana: Gov. Holcomb Leaves Door Open — Early political reports coming from the Hoosier State suggest that Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) will not pursue a 2024 US Senate bid when his tenure as governor comes to an end. Gov. Holcomb is ineligible to seek a third term.

When asked about running for the Senate this week on wishtv.com, however, Gov. Holcomb replied, “there’ll be time for me to think about the future in the future. But it would be next to irresponsible for me to take my eye off the job that I’ve got.”

This response suggests the Senate race door is not fully closed and will certainly remain an option for Holcomb as time moves forward. With universal statewide name identification and the ability to quickly raise large amounts money, Gov. Holcomb has the luxury of waiting to make a decision until he sees how an open Senate field develops. First-term Sen. Mike Braun (R) is a clearly preparing a run for governor, thus leaving his Senate seat open.

House

CA-22: Re-Match Already Building — California Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) is tied for representing the most Democratic seat in the country that sends a Republican to the US House. Long Island Rep-Elect Anthony D’Esposito (R-Hempstead) holds the other. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates both Valadao’s CA-22 and Mr. D’Esposito’s NY-4 at D+10.

Despite the odds stacked against him, Rep. Valadao was able to post a 51.5 – 48.5 percent victory over state Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) in November, who was arguably the most difficult opponent Valadao faced in his five winning electoral campaigns. Yesterday, Salas, who risked his Assembly seat to run for Congress, filed a committee to seek a re-match in 2024. If he ultimately follows through and runs two years from now, this race will again become a top national Democratic conversion target.

Governor

Indiana: Sen. Braun Releases Gov Poll — Sen. Mike Braun (R) is clearly moving toward making a quick gubernatorial announcement after filing a state gubernatorial campaign committee last week. Reports suggest that Sen. Braun may make his formal declaration as early as next week. In preparation for launching a gubernatorial bid, he just released the results of an internal poll.

The study, from the Mark It Red research group (Nov. 18-22; sample size not released), finds Sen. Braun opening with a large Republican primary advantage in what will be an open race for governor. According to the survey results, Sen. Braun would lead Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and venture capitalist Eric Doden, 47-10-5 percent, respectively.

States

North Carolina: Redistricting Case Could be Moot — The North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case that was heard before the US Supreme Court yesterday is a potential landmark case, but some North Carolina state political sources suggest the arguments may go by the proverbial wayside. The high court will rule before the end of June, but before that occurs, the new North Carolina legislature may draft new redistricting plans for the US House, state Senate, and state House of Representatives. Since a court map is only an interim plan, the legislature can replace it with a permanent draw at any time.

If this occurs as described, and new maps are enacted –- remember, in North Carolina, the governor has no veto power over redistricting legislation -– it is possible that the action could render the case before the Supreme Court as moot. If so, the issue of whether the Constitution views state legislatures as solely independent when handling redistricting could well go unanswered.

Sen. Warnock Wins Re-Election; Florida Sen. Scott to Seek Re-Election; Nebraska Gov. Ricketts to Apply for Senate Appointment; SCOTUS Hears Redistricting Case Today

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) wins re-election. | Facebook photo

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022

Senate

Georgia: Sen. Warnock Wins Re-Election — As predicted, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated GOP former professional football player Herschel Walker (R) last night in the Senate runoff, but the approximate 51-49 percent contest split was much closer than many prognosticators expected. The Warnock win gives the Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate, a net gain of one seat from the present 50-50 makeup. The outright majority will give the party at least one more vote than the Republicans on every Senate committee, and make it easier for the leadership to confirm administration appointments, including federal judges.

Turnout is one of the bigger stories, as the projected 3.6 million people voting in the runoff election is actually 200,000-plus individuals greater than those voting in the regular Senate contest back on Nov. 8. It is unprecedented for a runoff to draw more voters than a regular election, but such has apparently happened in this Peach State election.

Yesterday’s secondary election was necessitated under Georgia election law because neither Warnock nor Walker received majority support in November. Unlike in most states, an absolute majority is required to win a Georgia general election.

Sen. Warnock has now secured a full six-years in the Senate after winning the 2020 special election to fill the balance of then-Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) final term. Sen. Isakson resigned at the end of 2019 due to health reasons and then later passed away. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) then appointed businesswoman Kelly Loeffler (R) to fill the post until the 2020 special election of which Rev. Warnock won in that cycle’s subsequent runoff.

Florida: Sen. Rick Scott (R) to Seek Re-Election — Quelling political speculation that he would run for president in 2024, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) early this week made clear his intentions for the next election. Saying in a response to a question from radio host and national commentator Hugh Hewitt, Sen. Scott said, “I have no plans to run for president and I have a 100 percent plan to run for the US Senate [in 2024]. I’m running for re-election for senator from the great state of Florida.”

Speculation is also surfacing that outgoing US Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) may challenge Sen. Scott. In a response to a reporter’s inquiry, Rep. Murphy didn’t close the door on such an option and pointed out that Florida is still not as “red” as the electorate voted in the 2022 election. Of the 11 Republican in-cycle seats for 2024, the Florida campaign could be the most competitive, but even here Sen. Scott must be rated a heavy early favorite for re-election.

Nebraska: Gov. Ricketts Will Apply for Senate Appointment — Nebraska junior Sen. Ben Sasse (R) has now set Jan. 8, 2023, as the date he will officially resign his elected position in order to become president of the University of Florida. Governor-elect Jim Pillen (R), who will appoint a replacement for Sen. Sasse, has asked individuals who want to be considered for the Senate appointment to apply before Dec. 23. One person who confirmed he will apply is outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R).

In the open Republican gubernatorial primary back in May, Gov. Ricketts became actively involved and endorsed Pillen, a University of Nebraska Regent, over eight other Republican candidates including Trump endorsed businessman and rancher Charles Herbster. Pillen would win the Republican primary with four percentage-point margin and claimed the general election with just under 60 percent of the vote.

Though others will apply for the soon-to-be vacant Senate position, Gov. Ricketts is viewed as the clear favorite for the early January appointment. The new senator then will stand for election in 2024 to fill the unexpired portion of Sen. Sasse’s final term. The seat is next in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2026.

States

North Carolina: SCOTUS Hears Redistricting Case Today — The North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case that contains challenges to judicial authority over the redistricting process is before the US Supreme Court later today. North Carolina is challenging, among other points in the lawsuit, whether judges have the power to invalidate redistricting maps, since the US Constitution specifically gives re-mapping power to the state legislatures. While it is doubtful that the judicial panel will rule against judicial power, the legitimacy of the redistricting commissions that several states have adopted could be in question.

Along with the previously heard Alabama racial gerrymandering case, the Supreme Court is apparently prepared to issue landmark rulings on Voting Rights Act interpretation for the first time in decades. The rulings should end the inconsistent interpretations we have seen coming from various state judicial systems. Rulings on both the Alabama and North Carolina cases will be issued before the end of next June.

Democrats Move Biden Schedule Forward; Warnock Leads in GA Runoff Polling; Duarte Wins Last Outstanding House Race, GOP Majority at 222 Seats; Manchin Not Ruling Out Gov Run

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022

President

Primaries: Democrats Move Biden Schedule Forward — The DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee approved President Biden’s suggested alterations for the 2024 primary schedule. This means that South Carolina moves into the first primary position on Feb. 3, 2024. Following on Feb. 6 will be New Hampshire and Nevada. The newcomers to the early group are Georgia, slated for Feb. 13, and Michigan two weeks later on Feb. 27.

Republicans say they will maintain the traditional schedule kicking off with the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary with Nevada and South Carolina following. The New Hampshire Democrats are objecting to being moved from the first primary position and state law allows them to ignore a political party’s rule. Though this is the first definitive step to nomination rules changes, more details must be finalized before any schedule takes effect.

Senate

Georgia: Sen. Warnock Leading in Last Runoff Polling — The Georgia Senate runoff election is today, and the latest two surveys give incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) a slight lead. Emerson College (polling for The Hill newspaper; Nov. 28-30; 880 likely Georgia runoff election voters; multiple sampling techniques) finds Sen. Warnock clinging to a 51-49 percent edge over former professional football player Herschel Walker (R). Survey USA (polling for television station WXIA in Atlanta; Nov. 26-30; 1,214 Georgia runoff election likely voters; online) sees a similar 50-47 percent spread in the senator’s favor.

Early voting looks even more favorable than the polling. Democratic early voting is up 5.7 percentage points when compared with the 2020 Georgia runoff election. Conversely, Republicans are down 7.3 percent based upon the previous statewide post-election runoff. Heading into today’s vote, Sen. Warnock is the clear favorite.

House

CA-13: John Duarte (R) Wins Last Outstanding Race — The final unresolved House race was called over the weekend, and California Republican John Duarte, an agriculture-related businessman, was projected a 584-vote winner over Democratic state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). The win gives the Republicans a 222-213 House majority and provides GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) a much-needed vote for House Speaker, this one from a neighboring district, part of which touches his own CA-20 CD.

The race is officially over even though final numbers have not yet been recorded. Gray conceded the race to Duarte and, since California has no automatic recount law, the outcome is final.

Governor

West Virginia: Sen. Manchin Not Ruling Out Gov Run — Sen. Joe Manchin (D) said over the weekend that he has not made up his mind whether to seek re-election, run for governor, or retire. Sen. Manchin said he will make a decision about the 2024 election after the first of next year.

The interesting part of his statement is acknowledging that another run for governor is an option on his political table. Before winning a special 2010 US Senate election, Manchin served as governor from January 2005 to November of 2010, having won two elections to the state’s top elected post. Early polling suggests he would not fare well in a Senate race against Gov. Jim Justice (R), who is ineligible to seek a third term, and Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town). This makes West Virginia the top early 2024 election cycle Republican conversion opportunity.

Biden Suggests Primary Schedule; Maine’s King Prepping for Re-Election Campaign; A Budding GOP Primary Challenge in VA-9; Louisiana’s Gov Race Hinges on Kennedy

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Dec. 5, 2022

President

President Joe Biden

Primaries: President Biden Suggests Schedule — Considering that the White House will have a major say as to how the new Democratic presidential nomination rules are changed, President Biden shared his idea for a new primary schedule. He suggests South Carolina, the state that launched his own victory through the previous nomination process, be the first state to vote. He then says that New Hampshire and Nevada, voting on the same day, should be scheduled a week after the Palmetto State with Georgia and Michigan following on successive Tuesdays. This idea would increase the number of places voting before Super Tuesday from four to five.

Senate

Maine: Sen. Angus King (I) Preparing for Re-Election Campaign — Sen. Angus King (I), who has previously overcome both skin and prostate cancer, is reportedly planning to seek re-election in 2024 when he will be 80 years old. The senator, who previously served two terms as Maine’s governor, was first elected to his federal office in 2012. At the time, it appeared the 2018 campaign would be his last, but retiring at the end of the succeeding Congress does not now look to be the senator’s ultimate career path.

Sen. King runs as an Independent on the Maine ballot but caucuses with the Democrats, as does New England neighboring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Should he indeed run in 2024, it will be the first time Sen. King will experience Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting system. Considering this situation, the veteran office holder may draw stronger opposition than in his past election campaigns.

House

VA-9: A Budding GOP Primary Challenge — Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who was just re-elected to a seventh term with 73.5 percent of the vote, may be drawing a 2024 Republican primary challenge. Freshman state Delegate Marie March (R-Floyd) made a statement late last week saying that Rep. Griffith has “been in Congress too long,” and hinted that she might challenge him in the next GOP primary.

Rep. Griffith was first elected in 2010, defeating long-time incumbent Rick Boucher (D) and has had little in the way of competition ever since. He’s averaged 72.4 percent in his six re-election victories and has not yet faced a Republican primary challenge.

Governor

Louisiana: Yielding to Sen. Kennedy — Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder (R) announced late last week that he will run for governor next year unless, he said, Sen. John Kennedy (R) enters the jungle primary field. If Kennedy does run, Schroder will opt to seek re-election. Sen. Kennedy, fresh from a 62 percent jungle ballot election victory in November that saw him winning a second US Senate term outright, is expected to enter the governor’s race and be considered the clear front runner. The senator says he will make a decision after the first of the year. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Michigan Senate Okays Primary Move; Sen. Braun Moving Toward Indiana Gov Race; West Virginia Senator’s Son Announces for Gov

By Jim Ellis — Friday, Dec. 2, 2022

President

Michigan: State Senate Okays Primary Move — The Michigan Senate approved a bill to move up the Wolverine State presidential primary from the day designated as Super Tuesday in March to the second Tuesday in February. The move underscores the state leadership’s desire to move Michigan into one of the state slots allowed to vote before Super Tuesday.

With the Democrats clearly preparing to change the nominating rules, voting schedule, and primary order of the states, Michigan is attempting to get a head start toward being one of at least the first four states to vote before Super Tuesday. If the state formally takes this action, it is likely that the Republicans would have to follow suit and schedule the Michigan primary early in the process.

Senate

Indiana: Sen. Braun Moving Toward Gov Race — As expected, Indiana Sen. Mike Braun (R) filed papers with the Secretary of State’s office in Indianapolis Tuesday to become an open-seat gubernatorial candidate, which is his first step toward foregoing re-election to a second term in the US Senate. Incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is ineligible to seek a third term under Indiana’s term limit law.

Should he become a candidate, Sen. Braun will very likely face credible opposition in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Already venture capitalist Eric Doden (R) has announced his Senate candidacy. Other potential names being bandied about include former two-term Gov. Mitch Daniels, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, retiring Congressman Trey Hollingsworth (R-Jeffersonville), and former state senator and ex-Indianapolis mayoral candidate Jim Merritt. For the Democrats, the only announced candidate is Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick.

Assuming he shortly makes a formal announcement of candidacy, the Indiana Senate seat will be the first to open in the 2024 election cycle.

House

IN-3: Rep. Banks Signals Interest in Senate — With Indiana Sen. Braun (R) making moves to enter the open governor’s race, a fierce Republican primary battle for the right to succeed him in the Senate is sure to occur. Already saying through a spokesman that he is considering competing for the open statewide position is US Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City), who was recently defeated in his run for House Majority Whip. Other Republican names popping up are Attorney General Todd Rokita, retiring US Rep. Hollingsworth, and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), who was just re-elected to a second term. Term-limited Gov. Holcomb’s (R) political plans at this point are unknown.

Should Banks run for the Senate, we can expect a heated open battle for his northeastern Indiana 3rd District seat anchored in Ft. Wayne. A crowded GOP primary is sure to form with the winner punching his or her ticket to Washington in a district that the FiveThirtyEight organization rates as R+34.

Governor

West Virginia: Senator’s Son Announces for Governor — West Virginia state Delegate Moore Capito (R-Charleston), son of US Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and grandson of the late former Gov. Arch Moore (R), this week announced his own campaign for governor. He hopes to succeed term-limited Gov. Jim Justice (R) who may soon launch his own run for US Senate. Delegate Capito was first elected to the state House in 2016 and currently chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

McCarthy’s Math

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022

House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

Leadership — The announcement from several Republicans saying they will not vote for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the election for Speaker of the House even after he was overwhelmingly chosen the party nominee for the position makes the mathematics of his achieving a majority vote a bit tricky. The leadership election will be decided when the new members are sworn into office on Jan. 3. 

The sudden and unfortunate passing of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) reduces the number of members taking the oath of office on commencement day to 434. Even so, McCarthy would still need 218 votes if all are present and voting. Therefore, the McEachin death does not reduce McCarthy’s majority quota, but it could become a factor if a “present” vote strategy were to come into play.

Another complicating factor is the outcome of the lone outstanding House race, the CA-13 contest in the Fresno Valley. Republican candidate John Duarte, a local farmer and agri-businessman, predicted that he will eventually win the election once officials finally count all the ballots. 

Duarte supports his prediction by pointing out that most of the uncounted ballots are from Fresno and San Joaquin Counties in areas where the Republican performed better than his opponent, state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). Currently, the district-wide count is stalled with Duarte clinging to a 593-vote lead. If the remaining votes from the five counties perform like the counted ballots, Duarte would win by approximately 483 votes. There is, however, no guarantee that the uncounted ballots will fall in similar fashion, thus the race is still up for grabs.

A Duarte win, however, would increase the Republican Conference size to 222, and that extra vote would be important for the McCarthy-Speaker equation. It is also possible that recounts and legal challenges to individual ballots will hold up the certification of a winner in that race for an undetermined amount of time, thus possibly delaying a new member from being sworn in until after the Speaker vote. If this were to happen, the total House membership would drop to 433, and McCarthy would then need 217 votes to establish a majority as opposed to 218.

His bigger problem is that six Republican members have publicly stated they either will not support him in the floor vote or questioned his leadership ability. According to press reports, the four saying they will not support McCarthy on the floor are Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Bob Good (R-VA), and Ralph Norman (R-SC). The pair publicly questioning his leadership ability are Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) and Chip Roy (R-TX). 
 
There has been some talk that members voting “present” would actually reduce the number of votes to determine a voting majority. While this theory would be open to legal or parliamentary challenge, for the purposes of this example let’s see if such a strategy would work.

If the six members either committing to vote against McCarthy, or possibly doing so, were to simply vote present, and the majority number is truly reduced, then McCarthy would look to have 216 votes as compared to the Democratic likely Speaker candidate, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ (D-NY), 212 votes. Within this scenario, the “present” strategy would work because the aggregate counted votes would be 428, thus making the majority number 215.

If those six members, or any others, would vote for an individual other than McCarthy when answering the initial House roll call, then the result would be costly. Under this vote count, McCarthy would be one short of securing the majority.

The other idea being bandied about is having some of McCarthy’s supporters vote “present” in order to reduce the number necessary for securing a majority vote. This would be a very dangerous strategy because his margin is so small that he would come precariously close of dropping below Mr. Jeffries’ 212 votes, assuming the Democratic Conference votes in lock-step. Even one miscount on the roll call vote could elect Jeffries if this idea were attempted.

If McCarthy has 216 votes and the six opposition Republicans were to all vote for other individuals, then the supporter “present” strategy simply wouldn’t work because the McCarthy-committed vote would drop commensurately with the number needed for a majority.

Therefore, the only true path for McCarthy to win the Speakership race is to, first, ensure that no other fall-off is coming from the Republican ranks; second, that no other GOP candidate emerges with potentially more strength; third, that no hybrid coalition forms with the Democrats; and fourth, reaching an arrangement with his six Republican opponents to at least vote “present” in order to allow for a smaller majority number. 

Dems Lead in Early Voting in Georgia Runoff; VA-4 Rep. McEachin Passes Away; Defeated Rep. Herrell Already Files to Run Again

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022

Senate

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker

Georgia: Dems Lead in Early Voting; Two Favorable Polls for Walker — With the Georgia Senate runoff fast approaching on Dec. 6, the early voting, or Advance Voting as the procedure is called in Georgia, is widely favoring the Democrats. After the state Supreme Court granted Advance Voting to begin when the Democratic plaintiffs requested, it was clear that the party would score a large advantage in the pre-election ballot casting process. Republicans typically catch up to early voting disparities on election day itself.

Polling, however, suggests that the race is anything but over. Two surveys were recently released, from Phillips Academy and Frederick Polls, and they arrived at similar conclusions. Phillips (Nov. 26-27; 862 likely Georgia runoff voters; interactive voice response system and text) finds Republican Herschel Walker leading Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) by a single point, 48-47 percent. Frederick (Nov. 23-26; 939 Georgia runoff likely voters) shows the two men breaking even at 50-50 percent. It is presumed the latter survey was pushing initial undecideds to take a position, but the actual study and crosstabs were not released.

The polling suggests that the electorate remains virtually split in this race, almost exactly what we saw in the November tally when Sen. Warnock placed ahead of Mr. Walker, 49.4 – 48.5 percent, but fell short of the majority threshold.

House

VA-4: Rep. Don McEachin (D) Passes Away — Three-term Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) passed away Monday evening after a long battle with cancer. McEachin was re-elected to a fourth term on Nov. 8 with 65 percent of the vote in a 4th Congressional District that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as D+30.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will schedule a special election to replace McEachin in accordance with state law. The true battle for the seat will come in the Democratic primary. Candidates will likely begin announcing for the special election after McEachin in laid to rest.

NM-2: Defeated Rep. Herrell Files 2024 Committee — US Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo) is wasting no time in recovering from her tight 50.3 – 49.6 percent loss to Rep-Elect Gabe Vasquez (D-Las Cruces). Yesterday, it was reported that she filed a 2024 campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission.

This action does not necessarily mean she has decided to run in 2024. Filing a new committee allows her to raise more money in preparation for a proposed race without becoming an official candidate. Herrell certainly may run again but will probably wait to make a final decision until she sees whether the two impending US Supreme Court redistricting rulings will affect the New Mexico congressional lines. The decisions on the Alabama and North Carolina redistricting cases are due before the end of next June.

A re-draw could certainly help Herrell or any other Republican who wants to run for the 2nd District seat. The Democratic legislature changed the district lines under the 2021 map. According to the FiveThirtyEight data organization the previous map rated the 2nd District as R+14. The changes converted the seat into a D+4, thus leading to the 2022 election result.