Category Archives: Election Analysis

MD-7: Succeeding Rep. Cummings

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore)

Oct. 21, 2019 — The death of veteran Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore) just days ago, on Oct. 17, creates an obvious vacancy in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which is anchored in the city of Baltimore. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has a defined window to schedule the replacement special election for the late congressman, who was first elected in a 1996 special vote.

Cummings passed away in Baltimore, where he had been hospitalized at Johns Hopkins University’s medical facility. It is presumed that Gov. Hogan will wait until after the mourning period to schedule the special election, but he must act within 10 days of the occurred vacancy. The primary must be held within 65 days of the call date, with a special general election following within 65 days after the primary election date in order to comply with Maryland election law.

The calendar means the primary must be scheduled on or before Dec. 31 with the entire special cycle completed on or before March 5. Since the Maryland 2020 primary is scheduled for April 28, the 7th District special election must, therefore, be a stand-alone vote in order to meet the state’s mandated timetable.

Maryland employs a closed primary system, so Cummings’ congressional successor will be decided in the Democratic primary. The district has a Democratic Party registration figure of 68.3 percent, compared to Republicans’ 15.9 percent, and “Unaffiliated” 14.5 percent. Segments of under 3,300 people apiece belong to the Libertarian, Green, and other parties. Early voting will be in effect for the special election. Under state law, the early voting period begins the second Thursday prior to the election and ends the immediate Thursday before.

The district houses almost 60 percent of Baltimore city, in addition to encompassing over half of Howard County and just under a quarter of Baltimore County. The 7th shares Baltimore city with the 3rd (Rep. John Sarbanes) and 2nd CDs (Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger). The seat is majority African American/black, registering 53.6 percent of the demographic unit within the district confines as compared to the white population of 33.4 percent. Asians represent seven percent of the constituency, and Latinos just under four percent.

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Gov. Bevin Pulls Even in Kentucky

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 18, 2019 — Though the Louisiana governor’s race has received most of the recent national political attention largely because of their just concluded jungle primary election that somewhat surprisingly forced Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) into a run-off, news is now breaking in the Kentucky statewide electoral contest.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (L) and Attorney General Andy Beshear

Democrats have been outwardly predicting that Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of former two-term Gov. Steve Beshear (D), would oust Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in the coming election.

They first cited a pair of August polls that projected Beshear to be holding a substantial nine percentage point advantage over the governor (Garin-Hart-Yang Research and Clarity Campaign Labs both found Beshear leading 48-39 percent). Additionally, they point to the Morning Consult gubernatorial surveys that ranked Bevin dead last in job approval among the 50 state chief executives with a 34:53 percent favorable to unfavorable ratio.

Now, however, the race appears to be reversing course less than a month before the Nov. 5 election. Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy just released their latest data (Oct. 10-13; 625 registered Kentucky voters) finding that the two major party candidates have fallen into a tie at 46 percent apiece, meaning Gov. Bevin has captured current momentum.

Both parties will spend heavily to help their respective candidate cross the finish line first, but Bevin has at least two tangential points going for him in the final weeks.

First, independently wealthy, the governor has the ability to self-fund his race, which largely accounts for his $1.58 million to just over $628,000 cash-on-hand advantage as revealed in the final regular pre-election financial disclosure report.

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A Brewing Battle Emerging in Kansas

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 17, 2019 — Former legislative aide Abbie Hodgson, the only announced Democratic candidate in the KS-2 congressional race, withdrew her challenge to freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) Wednesday because she claims not to possess the fundraising ability to conduct a credible campaign. At this point, there is no alternative Democrat on the horizon in the Kansas district, but that will soon likely change.

Rep. Watkins won a tight 48-47 percent general election victory over former state House Minority Leader and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis (D) last November to succeed retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R). This came after political newcomer Watkins, a West Point graduate, Army Ranger and Afghanistan veteran, won a tight seven-way Republican primary but with only 26.5 percent of the vote. Controversy arose when a major independent expenditure committee emerged, which was principally funded by the candidate’s father, to back Watkins.

More potential upheaval surrounds Rep. Watkins, but it simmers below the surface. Rumors were flying around in August that the congressman would imminently resign his office because of a rumored scandal that was about to become public. Watkins took no such action, and to date nothing involving scandalous activity has come to light.

This has not stopped certain Republicans from taking action, however. In early September, reportedly at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) who lost his own bitter primary to then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner made a surprising move. He was the first declared US Senate candidate after incumbent Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement, but he then transferred from the statewide campaign to instead enter the primary to challenge Watkins in the Topeka-anchored congressional district.

Kansas’ 2nd is a decidedly Republican seat, but not intensely so. The CD occupies 23 eastern Kansas counties and parts of two others. It runs vertically from the Nebraska border to Oklahoma and consumes the territory between the Kansas City metro area and Wichita.

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New NC State Poll

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 16, 2019 — A new Meredith College political survey (Sept. 29-Oct. 7; 998 registered North Carolina voters) shows electoral weakness for Sen. Thom Tillis (R) as he seeks a second term next year.

The poll places the first-term US senator in a statistical tie with both of his potential Democratic opponents, state Sen. Erika Smith (D-Gaston) and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. The large number of uncommitted voters, however, suggests the race could go to either party and will likely break late, similar to many previous North Carolina election results.

According to the Meredith data, Sen. Tillis would tie both Smith and Cunningham with each of the three candidates receiving 33 percent support in all pairings. Obviously, these are not particularly favorable numbers for any incumbent and must be taken more seriously in this instance because of North Carolina’s history of either defeating its senators or seeing them not serve a second term for another reason.

In fact, the only two Tar Heel senators who have been re-elected since 1974 are Jesse Helms (R) and current three-term incumbent Richard Burr (R). During that span, the following senators were no longer in office after one term:

ONE-TERM NORTH CAROLINA SENATORS

  • Robert Morgan (D), 1980 – lost re-election
  • John East (R), 1986 – committed suicide in June before seeking a second term
  • Jim Broyhill (R), 1986 – appointed to fill Sen. East’s term; lost 1986 election)
  • Terry Sanford (D), 1992 – lost re-election
  • Lauch Faircloth (R), 1998 – lost re-election
  • John Edwards (D), 2004 – did not seek a second term to instead run for president
  • Elizabeth Dole (R), 2008 – lost re-election
  • Kay Hagan (D), 2014 – lost re-election

The Meredith College pollsters also tested Gov. Roy Cooper (D) as he fights for a second term likely against Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R). Here, Meredith finds the incumbent holding a 46-33 percent margin over his eventual GOP challenger.

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First-Term Louisiana Gov. Edwards Forced to Run-Off Against Rispone

Republican challenger Eddie Rispone (R) and Louisiana Gov. John Bel-Edwards (D)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 15, 2019 — Saturday’s Louisiana statewide open primary election found first-term Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) failing to win re-election outright, meaning he and the second-place finisher, businessman Eddie Rispone (R), will advance to a Nov. 16 secondary vote.

The result suggests Edwards’ bid for re-election is in trouble since no governor in Louisiana history has won a secondary vote when forced into a run-off. The governor received 46.6 percent of the vote in the primary, an election where all candidates are placed on the same ballot irrespective of political party affiliation. If no contender receives majority support, as was the case on Saturday, the top two finishers advance to a second election.

Rispone (pronounced: ris-pony), a Baton Rouge-area developer who reportedly spent more than $11 million of his own money on the gubernatorial campaign, garnered 27.4 percent of the vote, more than 51,000 votes ahead of third place finisher and fellow Republican Ralph Abraham, a northern Louisiana US congressman. The remaining two-plus percentage points were spread among a minor Democrat, Republican, and Independent.

Combined, the Democratic vote, despite featuring the incumbent at the top of the ticket, reached only 47.4 percent, compared to the combined Republican percentage of 51.8. Upon being eliminated, Congressman Abraham, who did not have to risk his federal position to run for governor, immediately endorsed Rispone. The two appeared together at President Trump’s Louisiana rally on Friday night, at which point the president urged the attenders to vote for either GOP candidate.

Polling appeared to correctly predict the race. Going into the final campaign days, nine different pollsters through 11 separate polls surveyed the Louisiana electorate. Nine of the 11 predicted Edwards to finish below 50 percent. Eight of the surveys projected Rispone to finish second with Rep. Abraham close behind. The Trafalgar Group and Data for Progress firms predicted the final result almost exactly.

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New York’s Rep. Nita Lowey to Retire

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) is retiring.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 14, 2019 — House Appropriations Committee chair, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who was first elected in 1988 and is now 82 years old, announced that she will not seek re-election next year. She joins Reps. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) and Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Batavia) as New York members not seeking re-election. Rep. Collins has already resigned his seat.

Her released statement thanked the constituency for her long congressional career but did not cite any particular reason for the decision to leave the House when the 116th Congress adjourns.

Her 17th District, which includes all of Rockland and just over 40 percent of Westchester counties, will become the 25th open seat for this current election cycle. The congresswoman is now the sixth Democrat to either retire or run for another office.

Lowey’s retirement will ignite a pair of interesting political battles. Internally, and assuming the Democrats hold the House majority in the 2020 election, the congresswoman’s leaving potentially ignites a four-way succession contest for Appropriations Committee chair. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven) immediately announced that she will be a candidate for chair once Lowey’s decision to leave the House became public.

In addition to DeLauro, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who ranks sixth in House seniority and second among Democrats, is likely to seek the position as well as Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and David Price (D-NC).

Since it’s been so long for a Westchester County congressional seat to open – Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) represents the county’s other half and was also first elected in 1988 – we can expect a very crowded Democratic primary with many candidates vying to succeed Lowey.

The state senators who represent most of the 17th are David Carlucci (D-Ossining) and Pete Harckham (D-Peekskill). The seat touches 10 Assembly districts, seven of which Democrats represent versus three that Republicans control.

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Biden Showing Up Strong in North Carolina – But Is It Enough?

Former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 11, 2019 — Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling just released their latest North Carolina survey (Oct. 4-6; 963 likely North Carolina voters, 410 likely North Carolina Democratic primary voters) Wednesday, which projects a two-person race developing in the Tar Heel State as former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), 39-22 percent. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg receives nine percent support, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) earns only a disappointing six percent. All other candidates fail to break the three percent level.

North Carolina is one of the Super Tuesday states, a state whose electorates will cast ballots on March 3, the largest voting day of the nominating season. On March 3, a total of 14 states and one territory will host primaries or caucuses, seven of which come from the south. It is here where former Biden would have to make his stand, since his southern numbers are the best of any candidate by a wide margin.

The question being posed is whether a sluggish Biden start in the first three voting states, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, where he could conceivably fail to place first in any, would derail his momentum to the point of lessening his southern advantage.

Making rudimentary delegate calculations from the 19 entities that would vote on or before Super Tuesday, we find that current polling would place the former vice president in the lead on the evening of March 3, but that his delegate edge would certainly not be dominating.

To re-cap, based upon the latest polling from Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada, the delegate estimate prior to South Carolina would find the former VP and Sen. Warren tied with 37 delegates apiece, while Sen. Sanders would have 27, meaning a virtual three-way tie despite Biden not winning any of the states outright. If he can stay in the hunt — with neither of his key opponents establishing themselves as a clear leader — the tide turns Biden’s way.

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