Category Archives: Election Analysis

An Upset Win in California for Garcia

By Jim Ellis

California Republican Mike Garcia

May 14, 2020 — Despite thousands of ballots still to be received and tabulated, California Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) conceded the 25th Congressional District special election race to Republican Mike Garcia late yesterday, making this the first time in decades that the GOP has converted a Democratic seat in the deep blue state.

According to the California Secretary of State, the semi-official preliminary totals showed Garcia, a retired Navy fighter pilot, taking 56 percent of the vote from the 143,335 tabulated ballots. Though votes will be flowing into the election center through Friday evening, it became obvious to Smith that there would not be enough late ballots to overcome Garcia’s substantial 17,339-vote advantage.

Though the California registration figures show 420,928 individuals on the voter rolls in this congressional district, meaning a current turnout of 34.1 percent with many more ballots coming, the progression did not appear to yield the huge participation factor Smith needs to turnaround the final election result.

In the March 3 state primary, 156,550 CA-25 voters participated in the regular election, a total not far from the preliminary tabulation we saw in Tuesday’s special general, remembering that the 3/3 vote, at the time, featured a competitive Democratic presidential nomination event. Of the total, 81,994 voted in the Democratic presidential primary in a CD that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) carried over former vice president Joe Biden, 35.6 – 33.6 percent.

On the Republican side, in their non-competitive race, 64,138 individuals voted in the presidential primary with incumbent Donald Trump taking 92.3 percent of the cast ballots.

Other past races find that this special election turnout could still grow substantially. In the 2018 midterm general election that elected Rep. Katie Hill (D), who would become embroiled in a sex scandal that forced her to resign a year later, 245,022 people participated. In the 2016 presidential election year, 261,161 voters cast their ballots in the congressional race.

Therefore, these latter turnout figures imply the participation rate could still grow, but even the larger historical numbers suggest that CA-25 is a mid-level turnout district in relation to the other California congressional districts. In the presidential election year, the district ranked 24th of the state’s 53 CDs in voter participation. In 2018, with their turnout figure approaching presidential election level voting, CD 25 reached 22nd position within the California district universe.

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Tiffany Wins in Wisconsin;
Nebraska Primary Nominees Chosen

By Jim Ellis

May 13, 2020 — Wisconsin Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany, as expected, easily won the special congressional election last night in the Badger State’s northwest 7th District with 57.2 percent of the vote from a huge voter turnout universe of just under 192,000 individuals. The Democratic nominee, Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker, was a consensus candidate for the special, but she raised less than $500,000 for the race and the national Democratic institution did little to assist her from the outside.

Once the vote tally is finalized, the Wisconsin Elections Commission will certify the result and Tiffany will be sworn into the House of Representatives to complete former congressman Sean Duffy’s (R-Wausau) term. Duffy resigned from office in August of last year for family reasons and the seat has been vacant ever since.

The 7th District occupies 21 central and northwest Wisconsin counties and parts of five others. For more than 40 years, former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D) represented the district. Rep. Duffy won the seat for the first time in 2010 after Obey chose to retire after serving 21 terms in office. Since the 2010 election, the district has moved toward the Republicans, and Tiffany’s victory seems to cement the seat as safe territory for the GOP.

The congressman-elect now will enter the regular 2020 primary scheduled for Aug. 11. The candidate filing deadline is June 1, but it is unlikely he will see much competition in either the primary or general election considering last night’s strong performance.


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Election Day Today:
California, Nebraska, Wisconsin

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Two congressional special general elections will be conducted today, but only one is expected to produce a winner tonight. Additionally, voters in Nebraska are casting ballots in their regular state primary.

The two special elections are in California and Wisconsin. The California seat, vacated when scandal-ridden freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned from office in October, has been controversial for a few weeks. The quieter contest is in Wisconsin where Republican state Senator Tom Tiffany is expected to hold the northwest 7th District that former Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) vacated for family reasons.

In the Cornhusker State, since first-term Sen. Ben Sasse has little opposition in the Republican primary and what appears to be seven minor statewide Democratic candidates vying for the party nomination – none have even raised $100,000 – the race garnering the most attention is the 2nd Congressional District primary.

There, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillon/Omaha) runs for a third term in what is again expected to be a competitive general election. Democrat Kara Eastman, who held Rep. Bacon to a 51-49% victory in 2018, is back on the ballot today principally facing Ann Ashford, the wife of former one-term US Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), and is favored to win tonight.

The California race in the state’s 25th District, which occupies much of northern Los Angeles County and a sliver of Ventura County, is formerly a Republican seat that switched to the Democrats in 2018. Clearly moving toward the latter party in terms of demographics and voting trends, the seat is still politically marginal to the degree where either side could win. Both candidates have spent over $2.2 million and are at parity in outside spending coming into the district for a contest that has sparked controversy.

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall), who represents close to half the district in the state legislature, was caught on camera disparaging Republican Mike Garcia’s military record. Mr. Garcia is a retired Navy fighter pilot. Ms. Smith later publicly apologized for her comments.

Furthermore, Republicans are already calling foul over how the election is being administered. President Trump, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Garcia have raised concern whether the election will be fair. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered this special contest conducted primarily by mail, and in California the state allows voters to postmark their ballot on Election Day meaning votes could take days to reach the county election authorities considering the state of mail delivery during the COVID-19 shut down.

In addition to the mail ballots, the state has organized fewer than 15 voting centers for people to vote in person. Another point of controversy — a new voting center was just added in the city of Lancaster, which is predominantly Democratic and 69 percent majority minority. Additionally, as Rep. McCarthy illustrates, Gov. Newsom closed the state’s beaches in response to COVID-19 health concerns but won’t heed his motion to suspend door-to-door ballot harvesting for this election.

In a way, the special election is somewhat moot. The counties have until July 15 to certify the election, so it is clear we will not have a final count for days if not weeks, thus allowing the winner even less time in Congress. Regardless of the outcome, both Garcia and Smith will advance to the regular November election, where the campaign will be re-run. Republicans sense an upset possibility, but Democrats have much more on the line. Losing a Democratic seat in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home state might well sound an alarm for their general election prospects.

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Massachusetts Senate: Total Opposite

By Jim Ellis

May 12, 2020 — On Friday, the most recent Massachusetts Senate Democratic primary poll was released, and it presents a very different conclusion to the close race results previously published.q

Late last week, we covered a University of Massachusetts at Lowell poll (April 27-May 1; 1,000 registered Massachusetts voters, 531 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) that found Sen. Ed Markey (D) locked in a virtual dead heat (42-44 percent) with Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) in their intra-party fight.

Emerson College (May 5-6; 740 registered Massachusetts voters, 620 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) conducted a statewide Massachusetts poll on the heels of the UMass effort and sees Rep. Kennedy crushing Sen. Markey, 58-42%.

The focal point of the Emerson poll was the presidential race and reaction to COVID-19, so just one question was asked about the Senate race. Unlike the UMass survey, Emerson did not release segmentation figures for the Senate ballot test question, so it becomes more difficult to judge reliability.

Since the two polls are so far apart, questions arise as to which is the more accurate. The sponsors are known pollsters who regularly survey Massachusetts – Emerson College is located in Boston, while the UMass affiliate resides in Lowell – so neither has a particular geographic familiarity advantage over the other. The sample sizes are both large enough to render strong results, and each has accurately depicted the state in previous studies.

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The Bay State Brawl

By Jim Ellis

May 11, 2020 — Many seasoned Massachusetts political observers believed that the intra-party Democratic US Senate battle between incumbent Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) would never happen.

At the beginning of the election cycle the prevailing local political wisdom was, if Kennedy were to enter the statewide race, that Sen. Markey would simply retire after spending 48 consecutive years in elective office, counting his time in the state legislature, US House, and Senate, rather than taking on a Kennedy and risk losing. Such, however, proved not to be the case. With the candidate filing deadline passing this week, the Sept. 1 showdown between Sen. Markey and Rep. Kennedy is on. And, the latest poll again confirms the two men are locked in a dead heat.

The University of Massachusetts at Lowell released their current survey results of the Bay State electorate (April 27-May 1; 1,00 registered Massachusetts voters, 531 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) and the Democratic US Senate primary ballot test finds Rep. Kennedy clinging to a 44-42 percent lead. This is not much different than the university’s February poll that found Kennedy ahead 35-34 percent.

In all, this has to be a very encouraging result for Sen. Markey. Running against the so-called “Kennedy mystique,” the media-driven term that matters more in Massachusetts than anywhere else, and qualifying for the ballot because the courts reduced the number of required petition signatures because of the COVID-19 imposed precautions, Sen. Markey’s ability to hold his status within the margin of error against Rep. Kennedy has to be considered a victory for the veteran politician.

The money count is almost as close as the polling, except Markey has the advantage. Looking at the March 31 Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports, Sen. Markey has raised just over $8.8 million for the campaign cycle as compared to $5.9 million for Rep. Kennedy. The senator also has the edge in cash-on-hand resources, $4.4 million to $3.8 million. Therefore, having enough funding to communicate their campaign message to the voters will not be a problem for either man.

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