Category Archives: 2022

The “Fail Up” Senate Candidates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 16, 2021 — There is an interesting phenomenon developing in the 2022 US Senate races, and that is the number of currently leading primary nomination candidates who have lost their last race. No less than five current US Senate contenders, all topping the latest polling, were defeated the last time they were on the ballot, some even in political campaigns for offices with less prominence.

In recent election years, we’ve seen a number of candidates lose a race and then attempt to “fail up” in the next campaign year. Most of the time, the same result occurs. The seemingly lone exception to the rule is Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D), who lost a special election for the US House in 2017 only to run for the Senate in 2020 and be elected.

Turning to 2022 and the unusually high number of such “fail up” candidates allows us to see if this pattern can reverse itself, or if the vast majority of these contenders will again find themselves on the short end of the vote totals when their election cycle ends either in the nomination contest or general election.

The 2022 “fail up” Senate candidates are Abby Finkenauer (D) in Iowa, Adam Laxalt (R) from Nevada, Pat McCrory (R) and Cheri Beasley (D) in North Carolina, and Pennsylvania’s Sean Parnell (R). Dr. Al Gross, who lost the 2020 Senate race in Alaska is a possibility to enter the 2022 race in the Last Frontier, but so far has not announced his candidacy.

Finkenauer, a Democrat, is a former state representative and congresswoman from Dubuque, Iowa. She was elected to the House in 2018, only to lose her seat after one term, 50-47 percent, to current US Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Finkenauer is leading in early polling for the Senate Democratic nomination as she and retired Navy admiral and defeated 2020 US Senate candidate Mike Franken battle to challenge venerable Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) who has won seven US Senate elections. Early polling finds Finkenauer trailing by close to 20 points.

Laxalt was elected Nevada’s attorney general in 2014, but with only 46 percent of the vote in a place where his party swept all of the statewide offices in that election year with his being the lowest victory percentage. Laxalt then entered the open 2018 governor’s race but lost to current incumbent Steve Sisolak (D), 49-45 percent. The latest polling (September) finds him trailing Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) by five points in a Mellman Group survey but holding a two-point lead in a study from WPA Intelligence.

North Carolina actually features candidates in both parties leading in nomination polling after losing their last race. McCrory is the former governor who lost his 2016 re-election campaign, even while Donald Trump and seven other Republicans were winning their statewide elections.

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North Carolina’s Rep. Cawthorn Switching Districts in 2022

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 15, 2021 — With the newly enacted North Carolina congressional map being vetted and analyzed, candidates for the various districts are beginning to come forth. One surprising move is the decision from freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-Hendersonville) to run in new District 13 instead of where his home and the majority of his current constituents reside, in new District 14.

Rep. Madison Cawthorn

Cawthorn, at at the age of 26, is the youngest member of Congress; he was elected to represent the 11th District in 2020, succeeding Mark Meadows, the former Trump chief of staff who left the US House to enter the White House. The 11th has traditionally been the number for the district that sits in the Tar Heel State’s far western corner, anchored in Asheville and nestled among the Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina borders, but the newly enacted congressional map changes its number to 14.

Though the seat in its present configuration has become strongly Republican, that was not always the case. Throughout the 1980’s the district became one of the most politically marginal CDs in the country. During that entire decade, the 11th switched repeatedly back and forth between Democrat James Clarke and Republican Billy Hendon.

Once businessman and former state legislator Charles Taylor defeated Rep. Clarke in 1990, he was able to hold the district for eight consecutive terms until losing in 2006 to Democrat Heath Shuler, the former star University of Tennessee quarterback and NFL player. Shuler represented the district for three terms before retiring, leading to Meadows winning the first of his four elections. Rep. Cawthorn then recorded a 55-42 percent win in 2020 to keep the seat in the Republican column.

The new iteration of the westernmost North Carolina district returns to a more politically marginal status with a statistical history producing Republican victories in the low 50s rather than the high 50s. The adjacent new open 13th District, which annexes the western part of the Charlotte metropolitan area and moves to the Buncombe County line, becomes the region’s new safe Republican seat.

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Sununu Won’t Take Senate Plunge

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) will not run for the Senate.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 11, 2021 — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) held a long awaited news conference this week to announce his political plans for 2022. The governor had been the Republicans’ top recruitment prospect to challenge vulnerable Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, but the three-term state chief executive has chosen to eschew a tough Senate challenge and will instead run for a fourth gubernatorial term.

Though Sununu, like his father before him, has been elected three times as governor, he is still only in his fifth year of service. New Hampshire and Vermont are the only states that have two-year gubernatorial terms. In fact, for a 146-year period, no one had served more than one term as the state’s top office holder. The only governor in New Hampshire history to serve four terms is Democrat John Lynch, who was in office from 2005-2013.

Gov. Sununu’s decision certainly changes the New Hampshire political landscape and will cause potential candidates to begin assessing their chances both in a Senate race against Hassan and as a gubernatorial contender opposite Sununu. Attention now may turn to two-term US Rep. Chris Pappas (D-Manchester).

The Republicans, with trifecta control of the New Hampshire political system in that they hold the governor’s office and have majorities in both houses of the legislature, are looking to change the marginal 1st Congressional District, the seat that has defeated more incumbents than any CD in the country since 2004, into a Republican domain. Doing so would concede the politically marginal 2nd District to incumbent Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton/Concord).

Pappas, aware that a significant change in his district could make him an underdog for re-election, was likely headed into an open governor’s race if Sununu decided to run for Senate. Now that he would have to take on a popular incumbent, his next political move may be less clear.

Turning back to the Senate picture, incumbent Hassan still remains as the most vulnerable Democrat seeking re-election in 2022; so where do Republicans go now? Looking at the crowded 1st District race, two contenders stand out as potential statewide candidates.

Gail Huff Brown, a long time New England television news reporter, is the wife of former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, and she has already announced her congressional candidacy. Former Sen. Brown, himself, would also be a possibility since he has already run for the Senate once in New Hampshire. Matt Mowers is the 2020 1st District nominee who held Rep. Pappas to a 51-46 percent re-election victory. He, too, is an announced congressional candidate but it appears possible that at least one of the aforementioned could instead enter the Senate race.

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Rep. Beutler Trailing in New Poll

Six-term Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground/Vancouver)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 9, 2021 — Another of the House Republican Trump impeachment supporters appears to be having trouble back home. A new Trafalgar Group poll (Oct. 30-Nov. 2; 682 likely WA-3 primary voters; combination live interview, interactive voice response system, and text) finds six-term Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Battle Ground/Vancouver) placing third in a field of four as a prelude to next year’s jungle primary.

According to Trafalgar, former Green Beret Joe Kent (R), who has former President Trump’s endorsement, leads the candidate field with 35 percent preference. Next is Democrat Brian Hennrich, a movie theatre technician, who records 24 percent. For this poll, Hennrich realistically serves as a placebo candidate to test Democratic support. Rep. Beutler then places third with 23 percent and another Republican, pastor and author Heidi St. John, posts 10 percent support. An additional eight percent said they would vote for “another Democrat.”

Surveys such as this will likely spur the Democrats to recruit a much stronger candidate in what plays as a marginal southwestern Evergreen State congressional district.

Washington is one of three states that employs a top-two jungle primary system. All candidates are placed on the same ballot and the top two finishers, regardless of percentage or party, advance into the general election. Therefore, this poll would suggest that Rep. Beutler, at least today, could be eliminated before the general election cycle even officially begins. Washington has a late primary, Aug. 2, 2022, so plenty of time remains for the congresswoman to right her political ship.

The Washington districts won’t likely change a great deal in redistricting. Washington redistricts by commission, and has since 1991. Because none of the state’s 10 districts need a major population influx, it is probable that most of the seats, and especially District 3 (largely because it must only shed 2,222 individuals) will remain relatively constant.

The 3rd District is nestled into the southwestern corner of the state, bordering Oregon and the Pacific Ocean. The seat needing to gain the most people is Rep. Derek Kilmer’s (D-Gig Harbor) 6th District, but the 33,730 residents it requires is still a relatively small number in comparison to some other states.

Currently, the Beutler district votes as a marginal Republican seat. Former President Trump carried WA-3 in 2020 with a 51-47 percent margin after posting a 50-42 percent showing against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Rep. Beutler, in what was billed as a competitive race at the beginning of the 2020 election cycle, scored a 56-43 percent re-election victory. She has averaged 57.6 percent of the vote in her six successful congressional elections.

Fundraising so far has been significant. The September 30 FEC reports find Rep. Beutler already raising $1.73 million for the cycle with $1.38 million cash-on-hand. Kent has also done well, especially for a challenger, raising $1.09 million with $837,000 in the bank. St. John (R) has also raised a respectable $334,000, and held just over $213,000 in her campaign account at the reporting period’s end.

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First California Map Released

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission released its first congressional redistricting map in rudimentary form, not even including district numbers.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 29, 2021 — The California Citizens Redistricting Commission released its first congressional map, and, while a long way from completion, the first edition gives us an idea as to where the members are headed. Though the map was released for public comment, it is rudimentary in form, not even including district numbers.

Since California loses a seat in reapportionment, the mystery of which area and political party will absorb the seat loss appears to be answered. Using raw numbers, because all 18 congressional districts that are self-contained within or partially occupy Los Angeles County need more residents, the seat loss should come there.

Such is the case with this first commission map, and it is the district that Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) is vacating to run for mayor. Most of the current Bass district is collapsed into Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-Los Angeles) seat under this first plan. If this were the final draw, Democrats would sustain the seat loss.

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report released a partial analysis of the map, and finds that each party would benefit in an equivalent number of seats. Using the Biden-Trump ’20 numbers, the incumbents getting the worst draws appear to be Reps. Darrell Issa (R-San Diego), Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), and Josh Harder (D-Turlock/Modesto).

The Issa seat in San Diego appears to annex the Democratic city of Chula Vista before expanding all the way to Arizona through Imperial and Riverside Counties. It would move from a Trump plus-6 to a Biden plus-3 according to the Wasserman analysis. The Issa district was radically changed even though the current version required only 3,240 more people to meet the state population quota of 760,350 residents per congressional district.

Rep. Nunes’ Central Valley district would move from a Trump plus-5 seat to a Biden plus-3 but still maintain most of the congressman’s political base. Rep. Nunes’ current 22nd District is one of 18 CDs that are over-populated, the sixth highest in fact, having to shed 27,443 individuals. Clearly, most of the exiting individuals are from Republican areas.

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