Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Ciattarelli, McAuliffe Win Respective Primaries for Governor in NJ, VA

Jack Ciattarelli , New Jersey

By Jim Ellis

June 9, 2021 — As expected, former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, and ex-New Jersey state assemblyman, Jack Ciattarelli, won their respective Democratic and Republican primaries for governor last night in the two states holding major 2021 elections.

McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin, who was nominated in a May hybrid party convention, while Ciattarelli will challenge Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who seeks a second term.

Former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe

Virginia, which is the only state that limits its governors to one consecutive term, sees McAuliffe, also a former Democratic National Committee chairman, returning to the campaign trail after a break in service. He was governor from 2013-2017, yielding to current Gov. Ralph Northam (D) four years ago. In last night’s vote, McAuliffe captured 62.3 percent of the vote against four challengers including scandal tainted Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax who attracted less than 18,000 votes (3.5 percent) and finished a poor fourth.

When compared to the 2017 Democratic primary, the 2021 cycle turnout lagged. Once the final votes are posted, it will be clear that Democratic participation was down approximately 10 percent from four years ago. This is largely because the governor’s race was not particularly competitive. It has been a foregone conclusion for months that McAuliffe would easily capture the party nomination.

The lieutenant governor’s contest went to state Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge) as she defeated fellow state Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) 39-25 percent, in a field comprised of six candidates. The attorney general’s race was relatively close and showed weakness for incumbent Mark Herring as he defeated state Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), 56-43 percent, a poor showing for a two-term incumbent in his own party. The primary result suggests that Herring could find himself in a general election battle with GOP nominee Jason Miyares, a state Delegate from Virginia Beach.

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NJ, VA Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2021 — The two states with odd-numbered year elections in 2021 are holding their partisan primaries today, though one Old Dominion party has already nominated its statewide candidates. Voters in New Jersey and Virginia will choose nominees for governor and other elected statewide offices and for seats in their respective state legislatures.

Virginia Republicans, in a unique “drive-thru” convention, chose their gubernatorial nominee, Glenn Youngkin, on May 8. Nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general were also selected through the ranked choice voting system to narrow the field to a point where one candidate receives majority support after several rounds of counting.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is unopposed in the Democratic primary and former state assemblyman, Jack Ciattarelli, (pronounced: Chit-a-relli) is favored to capture the GOP nod after receiving official local Republican party endorsements in 17 of the state’s 21 counties. He faces businessman and frequent candidate Hirsch Singh, former Franklin mayor, Brian Levine, and pastor Phil Rizzo.

Virginia Democrats are expected to again back former governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as their party nominee. He enjoys wide polling leads over former Prince William County state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), scandal-tainted Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and state Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas).

Virginia is the only state in the Union that limits its governors to one four-year term but does not prevent former incumbents from seeking the office again as McAuliffe is doing. Many southern states historically installed a one-term limit for their governors, but Virginia remains the only place that maintains the practice. McAuliffe served from 2013 through 2017 before yielding to current incumbent Ralph Northam (D).

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Texas GOP Mayoral Victories

Along the US-Mexican border

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2021 — On Saturday, Republican candidates picked up three victories in a trio of Texas mayoral runoffs, the most surprising of which came in the Mexican border city of McAllen where the Hispanic population is close to 85 percent.

McAllen City Commissioner (Council) Javier Villalobos, a former Hidalgo County Republican Party chairman, won the mayoral runoff election with a 51-49 percent victory. This on the heels of the Texas-Mexico border region voting much more Republican in 2020 than in previous electoral history. From the congressional district that houses McAllen, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) won his November re-election contest with only a 50.5 – 47.6 percent victory margin.

In Ft. Worth, an election that broke more definitively along partisan lines, though all of the mayoral elections in the state are nonpartisan in that the candidate’s political party affiliation does not appear on the ballot, Republican Mattie Parker defeated Tarrant County Democratic Party chair Deborah Peoples. The spread was 54-46 percent in a contest where turnout more than doubled the aggregate mayoral vote of four years ago. Voter participation was up in all three of the Texas city runoff elections, but none like the huge increase in Ft. Worth.

The least partisan of the races occurred in Arlington, where former police officer and local businessman Jim Ross defeated Arlington City Councilman Michael Glaspie, also with a 54-46 percent margin. In this election, law enforcement seemed to dominate the campaign as five different police and fire associations rallied to support Ross.

As mentioned above, South Texas voting ventured more toward the Republicans in November even though Democrats still proved victorious in the region. Biden’s margin over then-President Trump dropped as low as 50-48 percent in Rep. Gonzalez’s 15th District, and under 52 percent in three of the four CDs that touch the Texas-Mexico border.

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S-1: An Unintended Consequence?

By Jim Ellis

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY)

June 7, 2021 — Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has scheduled the controversial federal elections bill, S-1, the companion measure to the House-passed HR-1, for debate on June 21, which appears to be a curious move. At this point, it seems improbable that the leadership can break the filibuster rule, and without doing so, how does the bill pass?

If such an observation is correct, then what does Sen. Schumer gain from bringing the bill to the floor, and will there be unintended consequences? These are questions to be answered after the bill is debated and either passed, dispensed with, or put on hold for a future legislative maneuver.

As we know, the filibuster rule is surviving because Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) won’t support changing the rule. Both senators, at least at this point, seem intransigent in their position.

Sen. Manchin just this week verbally shot back at reporters for continually asking him if he is changing his stance on the filibuster rule. “I’m not separating our country, OK?” Manchin said. “I don’t know what you all don’t understand about this. You ask the same question every day. It’s wrong.”

The Daily Kos Elections site yesterday published a filibuster-related response from Sen. Sinema to an Arizona constituent identifying himself through an email address as Triumph110. Below is an excerpt from a very long historically based response:

“I have long said that I oppose eliminating the filibuster for votes on legislation. Retaining the legislative filibuster is not meant to impede the things we want to get done. Rather, it’s meant to protect what the Senate was designed to be.

“I believe the Senate has a responsibility to put politics aside and fully consider, debate, and reach compromise on legislative issues that will affect all Americans. Therefore, I support the 60-vote threshold for all Senate actions. Debate on bills should be a bipartisan process that takes into account the views of all Americans, not just those of one political party. Regardless of the party in control of the Senate, respecting the opinions of senators from the minority party will result in better, commonsense legislation.

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NM-1: A Pattern?

By Jim Ellis

Albuquerque, New Mexico-anchored NM-1 Congressional District

June 4, 2021 — Several media reports — typified by an MSNBC website analysis article that Steve Benen authored after Tuesday’s New Mexico special election — are trying to make the point that Melanie Stansbury’s landslide victory is a potential benchmark for future Democratic victories. Such a conclusion is a stretch.

The two-pronged premise is that Stansbury was so strong that she even ran ahead of President Biden’s performance in the district, and that the Republican campaign’s emphasis on the crime problem and the national effort to defund the police proved a political failure.

While Stansbury, a two-term state representative, scored a 60-36 percent win in the Albuquerque anchored congressional district that former Rep. Deb Haaland (D) resigned to become US Interior Secretary, her performance is not unusual. In fact, her vote total was less than two points above the mean average Democratic congressional percentage since the party converted the seat from the Republicans back in 2008.

To the argument that Stansbury’s victory margin was larger than President Biden’s 60-37 percent spread against then-President Trump, and it was only one percentage point better, it is not unusual for a House campaign to outperform the top of the ticket. In most instances, the congressional winner is better known than his or her competitor, has greater funding and outside support, and is consistently in position to overwhelm the opposition. Such is rarely the case in a national presidential campaign or in a major statewide contest for senator or governor.

The crime issue was certainly a focal point of Republican nominee Mark Moores, an Albuquerque state senator. The national party, however, did very little to support Moores, virtually conceding the race from the outset based upon the voting history here for more than a decade.

For an underdog candidate in Moores position, emphasizing the crime issue, on paper, made sense as a point of attack. Albuquerque, according to FBI statistics has the ninth worst violent crime statistics in the country, meaning 1,352 crimes per 100,000 residents according to the latest available figures (2019). To put this number in perspective, Chicago, which has drawn much national media attention for its high murder rate, ranks 31st on the same scale, at 943 crimes per 100,000 city residents.

Perhaps one reason the crime issue did not propel the Moores candidacy is there was no serious effort to defund the Albuquerque Police Department, nor is there the sharp racial tension that is present in some of the cities where we saw serious problems along with a local movement to reorder policing.

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