Category Archives: Election Analysis

The Wild Kansas Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 21, 2020 — As we approach the Aug. 4 primaries, it’s clear that the Kansas Senate Republican primary will be the top attraction of that election day. An intra-party nomination clash in what should be a relatively safe open-seat campaign has devolved into a mixed-message political brawl.

Embattled Kansas Senate Republican candidate Kris Kobach

Just in the past month we’ve seen Democratic money coming into the Sunflower State in an attempt to influence the Republican primary, and national Republican money making an appearance trying to destroy the former GOP gubernatorial nominee. Furthermore, a well-healed third Republican candidate was being described as a multi-million dollar plumber who contributes more to Democrats. And, yesterday we saw a new ad with a candidate saying that it’s really “a badge of honor” that the Democrats are now attacking him because they’re afraid to face him in the general election.

When veteran Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement last year, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, fresh from running the disastrous Presidential Commission on Election Integrity that yielded no results before being disbanded, jumped into the Senate race. Because Kobach ran such a poor gubernatorial campaign and virtually handed the office to then-Democratic state senator Laura Kelly two years ago, Republican leaders were fearful of him becoming the Senate nominee. Democrats were also seeing early polling numbers indicating that they could beat Kobach while other Republicans were faring much better in general election ballot test pairings.

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Georgia Dems Must Act Today

By Jim Ellis

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

July 20, 2020 — The death of veteran congressman and longtime civil rights activist, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), on Friday spurs Georgia’s unusual political succession law to take effect.

Since Mr. Lewis had already won re-nomination on June 9th, the Democratic Party must now name a replacement nominee and do so before 4:30 pm today. Georgia law gives a political party only one business day to name a replacement if, for whatever reason, a vacancy occurs post the nominating election.

In response, Democrats quickly assembled a committee of seven 5th District and statewide Democratic leaders who will send a recommended three to five candidates’ names to the Georgia Democratic Party’s state executive committee. The qualified members will then vote electronically from around the state in order to choose a new nominee by noon. The state party officials say they will communicate the Executive Committee’s choice to Georgia’s Secretary of State before 4 pm EST today.

According to the New York Times and other news outlets, three members of the screening committee are Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former state House Minority Leader and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, and Jason Carter, the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nominee, an ex-state senator, and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. They will quickly choose among the people who filed an online application for consideration.

Speculation as reported in an Atlanta Journal and Constitution article indicates that the favorite to emerge from this lightening quick party process is state Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta), who is also the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party. Other top contenders are former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens, and ex-state senator Vincent Fort.

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The Texas Lineup

By Jim Ellis

July 20, 2020 — One of the more important states that will determine the House November outcome is the Lone Star State of Texas. Now with 14 of their 15 congressional runoff elections decided, we have almost a full card of nominations set in the state’s 36 districts. Within Texas, 14 of the districts either feature a heightened level of competition or were decided on Tuesday after a hotly contested nomination cycle. The top Texas campaigns are cataloged below:


Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

DISTRICT 2
• Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) vs. Sima Ladjevardian (D)
2018 Result: Crenshaw, 53-45%
Ladjevardian is a former advisor to ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign. She won the Democratic nomination when her primary opponent chose to forfeit her position in the run-off election. Rep. Crenshaw is the clear favorite for November.


DISTRICT 3
• Rep. Van Taylor (R-Plano) vs. Lulu Seikaly (D)
2018 Result: Taylor, 54-44%
Seikaly won the Democratic runoff Tuesday with 61 percent of the vote. Rep. Taylor is the clear favorite for re-election and should improve upon his 2018 percentage.


DISTRICT 4
• Open Republican Nomination vs. Russell Foster (D)
2018 Result: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R), 76-23%
With Rep. Ratcliffe resigning to become Director of US Intelligence, Republican precinct committee members will meet in convention on Aug. 8 to choose a replacement nominee for the general election. At least 15 candidates are competing. The convention winner becomes a prohibitive favorite in the general election.


DISTRICT 7
• Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston) vs. Wesley Hunt (R)
2018 Result: Fletcher, 52.5–45.7%
Rep. Fletcher unseated veteran Rep. John Culberson (R) in 2018. Now she faces mortgage company executive and Iraq War veteran Wesley Hunt in what has traditionally been a Republican seat. Fletcher is the first Democrat to represent the 7th since 1966. This is a competitive race and Republicans eye the Hunt challenge as one of their better conversion opportunities in the country.
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Kansas Rep. Watkins’ Legal Woes

By Jim Ellis

July 16, 2020 — On Tuesday night, within an hour of him stepping onto a congressional debate stage in Kansas, freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) was indicted in state court. He is charged with interference with law enforcement, providing false information, voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting, and failing to notify the DMV of change of address according to the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office as reported in The Hill newspaper.

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

Immediately Rep. Watkins claimed the timing of the indictments was politically motivated, though Republican District Attorney Mike Kagay naturally denied that was the case. Still, being charged three weeks before the primary election on what should be considered a minor activity that is treated as a felony, i.e., where a person declares his residence and whether he voted in a different city council district race that didn’t comply with his stated residence, arguably opens the DA’s actions to legitimate criticism.

The base controversy surrounds Watkins registering to vote at a UPS postal center in 2018. The congressman claims he made a mistake on the voter registration form by listing his mailing address rather than his street address. In a 2019 Topeka municipal election, Watkins apparently voted in the district race that housed the UPS store location he used as his mailing address, which is different from that of his stated residence; hence, the vote fraud charge.

Questions surrounding Watkins’ residence have been raised since he returned to Kansas to run for the open 2nd District seat. He re-located to Topeka after spending time in the military and living for most of the past few years in Alaska where he participates in the annual Iditarod races.

Attacking the residence issue, Rep. Watkins’ principal Republican primary opponent, Kansas state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, was already running an ad about the congressman registering to vote at the UPS store and owning two homes in Alaska “but none in Topeka” before the indictments came down, and now such residency issues will likely be at the forefront of the remaining three weeks in the primary cycle.

The Watkins controversy, however, does not end with the freshman congressman. His father, Dr. Steve Watkins Sr., a local Topeka physician, is reportedly under a Federal Election Commission investigation for allegedly making contributions in the name of another that combined exceeded his maximum individual limits. According to a Politico news story, Dr. Watkins confirms he is under investigation for giving money to his family members and associates in order for them to contribute to the congressional campaign. This is would be a serious charge that normally carries prison time. To date, no charges have been filed against Dr. Watkins.

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Tuberville, Sessions & Sessions;
Moore, Hegar & Valenzuela

By Jim Ellis

Former Auburn Football coach Tommy Tuberville (center) overwhelms Jeff Sessions in Alabama.

July 15, 2020 — The Texas and Alabama runoffs were held yesterday along with the postponed Maine primary, and we have some winners and cliff hangers.

In Alabama, retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, as expected, pretty much demolished former US attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions last night with the margin of victory being larger than expected. Though earlier polls had predicted spreads as large as 22 points, a 61-39 percent Tuberville victory margin was not forecast even though every pollster found the former coach leading the race. The Tuberville victory was so complete that Sessions, a man who ran unopposed in his previous Senate re-election campaign (2014), was limited to winning only three counties.

Tuberville advances into the general election to face incumbent Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones, who won a special election in 2017 ironically to replace Sessions after he was appointed to his Trump Administration position. Early polling suggests Tuberville will open the general election with a discernible lead over Sen. Jones in what will likely be a top-three state for President Trump.

Alabama hosted two significant Republican runoff elections last night, both of which almost assuredly identified a pair of new congressmen. In the Mobile-anchored 1st District, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl topped former state senator Bill Hightower, 52-48 percent, and will easily win the general election in November. In the adjoining 2nd District, despite being outspent by a 5:1 ratio, former state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) easily defeated moving company owner Jeff Coleman who finished first in the regular primary.

Moore scored a 60-40 percent win over Coleman who dropped more than $1 million of his own money into his campaign and earned retiring Rep. Martha Roby’s (R-Montgomery) endorsement. Moore ran as a Trump Republican and mixed his campaign message with attacks on DC and clever issue targeting. He did not run a negative race against Coleman who had been attacked in the primary. Coleman attracted 38 percent on March 3 but could only expand his runoff vote to 40 percent. Moore, on the other hand, who barely qualified for the runoff – just 591 votes ahead of third place finisher Jessica Taylor – was able to build a winning runoff coalition of 60 percent as compared to his 20 percent in the primary.

Turning to the Texas Senate Democratic runoff, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar defeated state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) by only about 40,000 votes statewide with further precincts to count. Hegar was mathematically projected the winner, but her margin could continue to shrink once the final tabulations are calculated and reported. She will now challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R) in a race that should break the incumbent’s way by a comfortable margin in November.

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