Author Archives: Jim Ellis

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.

Murkowski Re-Elected, Peltola Wins Full Term in Alaska; CA-13 is The Last Outstanding Race to be Called

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022

Senate

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

Alaska: Sen. Murkowski Re-Elected — Over the Thanksgiving break, we saw several more races called. The complete results came in Alaska where the final tabulations, including the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) rounds, were released and contests decided.

As expected, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) was re-elected after nipping former State Administration Director Kelly Tshibaka (R), 43.4 – 42.6 percent in the aggregate vote, a margin of 1,914 votes. In the first RCV round, with fourth place finisher Buzz Kelley’s (R) votes being distributed, the race became even tighter, with Sen. Murkowski’s lead reduced to only 44.5 – 44.3 percent, a spread of just 339 votes. 

The final result was easily predictable, and one could argue Sen. Murkowski really won her re-election when people voted to change the state’s election system in 2020. Initiated with support from the senator’s political organization, the hybrid jungle primary/Ranked Choice Voting system allowed Sen. Murkowski to skip what was her most vulnerable election, a partisan Republican primary. With four people now automatically advancing into the general election, the partisan nomination phase within the traditional election cycle was in effect eliminated. In 2010, Sen. Murkowski lost the Republican primary, but was re-elected when she won a write-in Independent campaign in that year’s general election.

House

AK-AL: Rep. Peltola Wins Full Term — After winning the August special election through the Ranked Choice Voting system to replace the late Alaska Rep. Don Young (R), at-large Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Bethel) has now clinched a full term after the state’s preliminary final vote count was released the day before Thanksgiving. The end result was predictable, especially when Rep. Peltola easily placed first in the aggregate count, with a 49-26-23 percent margin over former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and businessman Nick Begich III (R).

The first round of Ranked Choice Voting, which eliminated distant fourth-place finisher Chris Bye (Libertarian), almost put Peltola over the top. In this round, against both Palin and Begich, Rep. Peltola scored 49.2 percent of the adjusted vote. This result meant eliminating Begich, who was the third-place finisher. The third RCV round easily went to Rep. Peltola, who defeated Palin on a 55-45 percent tabulation. The Peltola victory increases the House Democratic Conference to 213 members as compared to the Republicans’ 221 with one California race remaining outstanding.

CA-13: The Last One Outstanding — We now have 434 US House races projected and the final partisan division count comes down to the end result from California’s new 13th Congressional District in the Fresno area. This post-election period could go on for some time.

The aggregate count, with a projected 96 percent of the votes recorded, although these estimates have not proven particularly reliable throughout the California counting process, gives Republican agri-businessman John Duarte a 593-vote lead over state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). The county with the largest outstanding vote at a 90 percent estimated recorded figure, is Stanislaus, which slightly favors Gray.

Depending upon this last outcome, the Republican House majority will be either 221-214 or 222-213. Another Speaker vote for California Republican Kevin McCarthy could also be critical in relation to how that internal race unfolds on Jan. 3.

We can expect further days before a preliminary count is revealed, and it is likely we will see a long period of vote challenges from both sides prior to final certification of a winner. The California election certification deadline is Dec. 16.

Governor

Alaska: Gov. Dunleavy Re-Elected Outright — One race that did not need a Ranked Choice Voting round was the Alaska governor’s contest. Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) won a second term in the aggregate count, scoring 50.3 percent of the vote against three other candidates.

In a distant second place was Democratic former state representative Les Gara who posted 24.2 percent of the vote, while former Gov. Bill Walker, again running as an Independent, followed. The latter man recorded 20.7 percent of the aggregate popular vote. In the final general election qualifying position was Republican former Kenai Borough Peninsula Mayor Charlie Pierce who managed to secure only 4.5 percent of the vote.

Gov. Dunleavy, who faced an aborted recall effort early in his tenure, is the first re-elected Alaska chief executive since Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles won a second term in 1998.

Warnock Leads in New Runoff Poll; WVa. Gov. Considers Senate Race;
Kiley Wins CA-3 – Republican Majority Now at 221; Questions Over McCarthy’s Leadership

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Nov. 28, 2022

Senate

Georgia freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock (D)

Georgia: Sen. Warnock Leads in New Poll — The Fabrizio Lee (R) and Impact Research (D) polling team conducted another survey for the AARP organization, this time of the Georgia Senate runoff election scheduled for Dec. 6.

According to the joint poll (Nov. 11-17; 500 likely Georgia runoff voters; live interview), the first published study of this race since the general election yielded a 49.4 – 48.5 percent result for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) over retired professional football player Herschel Walker (R), the incumbent again posts a small advantage. The AARP ballot test finds Sen. Warnock’s lead a reaching 51-47 percent. As is the case with all runoff elections, voter turnout will likely be the determining factor.

West Virginia: Gov. Justice Considering Senate Race — While Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) has already announced his bid to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next year, Gov. Jim Justice (R), who is ineligible to seek re-election in 2024, indicated last week that he, too, is considering launching a Senate campaign.

Gov. Justice’s approval numbers are high – rated as the sixth most popular governor nationally at 65:29 percent favorable to unfavorable according to the Morning Consult quarterly ratings for the period ending Sept. 30, 2022 – so he would certainly be a formidable candidate for the Republican nomination and against Sen. Manchin. A Triton Polling & Research organization August poll found Gov. Justice leading Sen. Manchin 47-32 percent in an early hypothetical race survey, for example.

House

CA-3: Republican Kevin Kiley Declared Winner — The Associated Press, in a race that appeared to be clinched days ago, finally projected California Republican state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Granite Bay/Sacramento) as the winner of the newly created open 3rd Congressional District that stretches from the northern Sacramento suburbs all the way into southern California via the Nevada border. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates CA-3 as an R+8 district, so the outcome of Kiley defeating Democratic physician and Iraq War veteran Kermit Jones is hardly a surprise result.

The Kiley victory brings the Republican House total to 221 with two races outstanding, the CA-13 seat that is a close contest between agri-businessman John Duarte (R) and state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), and the at-large Alaska seat of Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Bethel).

Once the Alaska contest advances into the Ranked Choice Voting rounds, which began right after Thanksgiving, the system will produce another victory for Peltola. Therefore, count her in the Democratic column. The race between Duarte and Gray is very tight: Duarte has an 852-vote lead with an estimated 93 percent of the vote counted. Therefore, this contest can still go either way when examining from where the outstanding votes lay.

Speakership: More Republicans Express Negative Views Toward McCarthy — Last week we covered a story indicating that three Republicans were headed toward a “No” vote for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in his quest to become Speaker of the House. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) publicly announced their opposition to McCarthy, while Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) said he does not believe McCarthy would be a successful Speaker.

Now joining the “No” chorus are Reps. Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Bob Good (R-VA). Texas Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin) was among those expressing similar feelings of failure regarding a McCarthy Speakership. With the Republicans having a 222-member conference at best (if John Duarte holds his lead in the CA-13 outstanding race), McCarthy has little margin with which to play in order to secure his 218 votes to be elected Speaker during the Jan. 3 initial roll call of members.

Schiff Explores Senate Race; Valadao Re-Elected; House Candidate Filings

By Jim Ellis — Nov. 23, 2022

Senate

California Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank)

California: Rep. Schiff Exploring Senate Race — With most people believing that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) will not seek re-election in 2024 when she will be 91 years of age, Southern California Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said that he is considering launching a US Senate exploratory committee. Schiff is already in a battle to keep his seat on the Intelligence Committee after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — should he be elected Speaker — said that Schiff and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) would be removed from the panel.

Should Sen. Feinstein retire, we will see a strong Democratic battle to replace her. In California’s jungle primary system, it is likely that two Democrats would advance into the general election. One thing is certain: Rep. Schiff would be able to raise the money to compete. In his bid for re-election to the House in the current cycle, he raised more than $22 million.

House

CA-22: Rep. David Valadao Wins Re-election — The Associated Press, late Monday afternoon Pacific time, projected that Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) had defeated state Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) in their hard-fought congressional race. This, despite Rep. Valadao finishing a distant second on the jungle primary back in June when he received only 26 percent of the vote versus Salas’ 45 percent in a field of four candidates in the most Democratic congressional district in the country that elects a Republican to the House.

According to the California Secretary of State’s official count, Valadao held a 3,381 vote lead with just over 100,000 votes counted. Based upon the number of outstanding ballots and where they are from, the AP made the unofficial projection. The Valadao victory gives the Republicans 220 members in the new Congress as compared to 212 Democrats. Three races, two in California and one in Alaska, remain uncalled. Republicans lead in both Golden State races, Democrats in the Last Frontier.

NC-13: Hines Files 2024 Committee — The court-drawn North Carolina congressional map featured a new 13th District that contained the southern Raleigh suburbs, the city of Fayetteville, and Republican Johnston County, which made the CD a toss-up seat. Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel carried the district with a 52-48 percent margin, defeating Republican Bo Hines, who received the Trump endorsement in the GOP primary.

Hines, 27, was a former football player for North Carolina State University, but had no other particular ties to the region and actually planned to run in another district before this open seat was drawn. He filed a new 2024 committee on Monday, presumably sending signals that he intends to run again.

Hines did not receive particularly favorable marks as a candidate, and there is a good chance we will see a new North Carolina map drawn after the Supreme Court rules on the state’s partisan gerrymandering case before them. Even if Hines decides to run, he can expect heavy competition in the Republican primary before getting another opportunity of opposing Rep-Elect Nickel.

WV-2: State Treasurer Announces for House — Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town) already announcing that he will challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the next election year has ignited the first of what promises to be political musical chairs for what will be an open 2nd Congressional District. State Treasurer Riley Moore (R) announced his congressional candidacy Monday and is the first major candidate to enter the 2024 race. Rep. Mooney’s successor will likely be decided in the Republican primary in a seat that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as R+34.

NY Overreach = GOP Majority

CNN’s New York state redistricting map (more coverage on CNN)

By Jim Ellis — Nov. 22, 2022

House

New York State: Redistricting — There is an argument to be made that the New York Democratic redistricting brain trust helped create the new Republican US House majority. With their over-reach on the original map that the legislature and governor enacted, the end result became so egregious that even the Democratic lower and upper courts rejected the congressional map as a pure partisan gerrymander.

The original enacted plan would have yielded a 22D-4R partisan split in the NY congressional delegation of 26 members, thus costing the Republicans four of the eight Empire State seats they control in the current Congress.

Once the votes were cast on Nov. 8 in the districts that the judges’ special master drew to replace the legislature’s plan, the end result saw Republicans not losing four seats but rather gaining three in relation to the current map and seven when compared to the Democrats’ original draw.

Therefore, instead of the intended 22D-4R plan, the New York delegation now headed to Washington is comprised of 15 Democrats and 11 Republicans. With a small Republican majority of what ultimately may be 220-222 seats once the outstanding California and Alaska races are finally projected, the NY swing is arguably the difference in determining which party controls the House.

The Democrats’ map would have reduced the Republicans to just one seat on Long Island, taken the lone district they have in New York City, turned the GOP’s Syracuse seat strongly Democratic, and collapsed the southwestern Upstate seat of resigned Rep. Tom Reed (R) as the lost district in national reapportionment.

You will remember that New York lost a congressional seat by just 89 people when the Census Bureau announced each state’s congressional district compilation under the national reapportionment formula.

After striking down the legislature’s map and replacing it with their own special master’s plan, the court in effect restored much of New York to its historic congressional district pattern.

Under the legislature’s plan, Long Island’s 1st District (Rep. Lee Zeldin) was drawn from the far eastern part of Suffolk County all the way into Queens. This led to stashing a preponderance of the region’s Republican voters in Rep. Andrew Garbarino’s (R-Sayville) South Shore 2nd District. The concept then allowed the map architects to make Districts 3 and 4, both open in 2022 with Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) running unsuccessfully for governor and Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) retiring, safely Democratic. The court undid this design.

Now, the 1st District returns to a Suffolk County anchored seat, a CD that Republican Nick LaLota, a former local official and Navy veteran, won to succeed Rep. Zeldin. Rep. Garbarino is back but with a less Republican South Shore seat, which then created a marginal North Shore District 3 seat that Republican George Santos won 54-46 percent in a domain that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates D+4.

The biggest surprise in New York, and perhaps the country, came in Rep. Rice’s open 4th CD, where Republican Anthony D’Esposito defeated heavily favored Democrat Laura Gillen, 52-48 percent, in a district that actually became more Democratic under the court map at D+10.

The other Republican gains came in the Hudson Valley, where state Assemblyman Mike Lawler (R-South Salem) upset Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) in a D+7 District 17, and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (R) rebounded from a special congressional election loss in August to claim a 51-49 percent win in a new 19th District rated as R+1.

In the 18th District, state Assemblyman Colin Schmitt (R) came within a percentage point of sweeping the Hudson Valley seats for the GOP, but Rep. Pat Ryan (D-Gardiner) held onto the 18th CD seat after he had won the 19th District special election three months earlier.

The Republican victory string ended with tech executive Brandon Williams (R) defeating former intelligence officer Francis Conole (D) by a percentage point to hold the open Syracuse seat, and former New York Republican Party Nick Langworthy easily won the new 23rd District from which Rep. Reed resigned and Rep. Joe Sempolinski (R-Canisteo) is serving as a caretaker.

The New York 2022 election cycle illustrates just how important map drawing and judicial decisions are in determining US House elections. The New York courts, for example, created a much more competitive political playing field, which certainly led to different results than we would have seen under the legislature’s partisan draw.

Considering that the US Supreme Court is likely to make landmark Voting Rights Act rulings on the Alabama and North Carolina cases before June ends next year, we will likely see new redistricting maps being drawn in several states, and New York could be one of those places. Any newly constructed map would take effect in the 2024 election. A major Supreme Court decision will add yet another dimension to what already promises to be another hot House campaign cycle coming in the new term.