Category Archives: Election Analysis

Jockeying for Ohio’s Senate Seat

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2021 — Monday’s surprise announcement that Sen. Rob Portman (R) will not seek re-election next year has ignited a flurry of activity and speculation from potential candidates and political observers alike. Some looking to challenge Gov. Mike DeWine (R) are now also beginning to survey and assess how an open US Senate candidate field might unfold.

Recent voter history suggests that the eventual Republican nominee will at least begin the general election campaign in the favorite’s role. The GOP, with a large number of statewide office holders, former elected officials, and a dozen sitting US House members, has an array of candidates from which to choose, and many will take the plunge.

For example, former US Rep. Jim Renacci, who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 53-47 percent victory in the 2018 campaign and was reportedly looking to challenge Gov. DeWine in the 2022 Republican primary, may now set his sights on the open Senate seat.

Another ex-office holder, Pat Tiberi, who averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over nine elections from a Columbus area congressional district that former governor and presidential candidate John Kasich once held, still sits on more than $5 million in his federal campaign account even though he hasn’t been on the ballot since 2016.

It was widely believed that he was amassing a huge war chest to run against Sen. Brown in ’18, but family considerations led him to change his mind, resign from Congress and instead take the reins of the Ohio Business Roundtable.

Still another former elected official, ex-state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who lost the 2012 Senate election to Sen. Brown, was planning to run again in 2018 until leaving the race because of his wife’s health issue. Mandel raised almost $20 million for his Senate race eight years ago and has over $4 million in his campaign account even though he has not been a federal candidate in eight years.

Republicans hold all of the state’s constitutional offices. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Attorney General Dave Yost, state Treasurer Robert Sprague, and State Auditor Keith Faber are all credible potential US Senate candidates.

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Ohio Sen. Portman to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced his retirement Monday.

Jan. 27, 2021 — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek a third term next year, opening the third Senate seat for the 2022 election cycle.

Addressing reporters at a news conference in Cincinnati yesterday, Sen. Portman said, “Our country’s polarized right now. It’s kind of shirts and skins. That makes it more difficult to find that common ground. Elected officials aren’t rewarded for that. What they’re rewarded for is throwing red meat to the talk show.”

The two-term senator indicated that the “partisan gridlock” is one of the reasons for his retirement. He further said in explaining his retirement decision, “we just keep pushing out to the right and to the left, there’s not going to be much left in the middle to solve the real problems we face.”

For the Republicans, they now have three big state open seats to defend as Sen. Portman joins Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr as incumbents who have already made their 2022 retirement plans public. Several others could be on the horizon.

Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will be 88 and 89 years of age, respectively, at the time of the next election, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) originally took a two-term pledge when he was first elected in 2010. None of these three lawmakers have made their future political plans public to date, however.

Ohio, once a bedrock Republican state, developed a swing image beginning in 1992 when the state deserted GOP President George H.W. Bush and backed Democrat Bill Clinton. They did so again in 1996. In 2000 and 2004, Ohio returned to the Republican column awarding George W. Bush with its electoral votes. In 2008 and 2012, the Buckeye State ventured back to the Democratic side of the political ledger, supporting Barack Obama in both of his national elections.

Therefore, rather than being cast as a swing state during this 20 year period, Ohio may actually have been a microcosm of the national electorate since the state’s voters chose the winning candidate in each of the presidential elections during that time span, and had done likewise for the three previous decades.

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Candidate Filing Closes

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 26, 2021 — Filing for the March 20 special congressional elections to fill the two Louisiana vacant seats, Districts 2 and 5, closed on Friday, meaning that the participating candidates are now identified.

Louisiana Republican Rep.-Elect Luke Letlow’s widow, Julia Letlow, is running for her late husband’s seat.

In the 2nd District, the New Orleans-anchored seat that stretches northward to include part of Baton Rouge, we see 15 individuals filing. The locals, however, highlight three significant Democratic contenders, one of whom will almost certainly be elected outright in the March 20 special primary or an April 24 runoff election should no one secure majority support in the initial vote. It is further likely that should such a runoff occur, it will involve two Democrats.

Moving northward, the vacant 5th District is open because the 2020 winner, Republican Luke Letlow, tragically passed away within three weeks of winning the December 5th runoff election. Here, 13 candidates filed to run in the special election, which was assigned the same election calendar as District 2, and Julia Letlow (R), the late congressman-elect’s widow, headlines those vying to represent the district.

Former Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) resigned from the House on Jan. 15 in order to accept his White House position. Richmond was originally elected in 2010, and had little trouble holding the seat through six elections. He averaged 67.0 percent of the vote and was never forced into a secondary runoff election in Louisiana’s jungle primary system.

The district is solidly Democratic. The 2020 presidential election segmentation by congressional district for Louisiana is not yet available, but the Democratic nominee averaged 75.20 percent of the vote when combining the 2016 and 2012 results. The CD is 61.50 percent black according to the available Citizen Voting Age population data. Therefore, the chances of one of the African American candidates again winning the seat is extremely high.

The three top contenders are state Sen. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans), who Richmond has publicly endorsed as his successor, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), and prominent Baton Rouge political activist and blogger Gary Chambers, who has the political wherewithal to attract support.

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Early House Outlook – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2021 — Concluding our electoral US House preview, today we look at the final dozen states in the country’s southern region.


• Alabama – 7 Seats (1D6R)

Alabama is on the cusp of losing one of its seven seats in reapportionment. Sources suggest the final numbers are very close and the state may sue over how the figures are tabulated should apportionment take away one of the Republican seats. The Democrats have only one CD in the state, which is a majority minority seat (Rep. Terri Sewell-D) that is a certainty to remain as part of the delegation.

Should Alabama lose a seat in reapportionment, the state’s southeastern region, most particularly the Montgomery anchored 2nd District, would probably the most affected since this is the least populated area of the seven CDs.


• Delaware – 1 Seat (1D)

The home of new President Joe Biden was once a relatively conservative state, but no longer. Delaware is growing but won’t come anywhere near gaining a second seat. Therefore, three-term Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Wilmington) will have an easy electoral ride for the foreseeable future.


• Florida – 27 Seats (11D16R)

The Sunshine State is one of two entities perched to gain multiple new districts. Florida is projected to add two seats, which should give the GOP map drawers the opportunity of protecting the newly won South Florida District 26 (Rep. Carlos Gimenez) and 27 (Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar) while maximizing the Republican compilation of Florida seats. Winning the aforementioned Miami-anchored CDs might result in conceding one of the new seats to the Democrats, however, in order to off-load a significant portion of their left-of-center voters, which would make both seats more Republican.

Holding the governor’s office, both houses of the legislature, and now a majority on the state Supreme Court will allow the GOP to become the big winner in redistricting. The fact that 25 of the 27 districts are over the estimated per district population projection of approximately 740,000 residents provides statistical evidence for expanding the delegation.

Rep. Darren Soto’s (D-Kissimmee) 9th District is the most over-populated seat with more than 931,000 people. Only Reps. Neal Dunn’s (R-Panama City) and Charlie Crist’s (D-St. Petersburg) seats are slightly below the projected population target. Twelve of the current 27 districts now hold more than 800,000 constituents. Expect the new seats to be added in South Florida, most likely toward the Gulf Coast side of the peninsula, and in the Orlando area.


• Georgia – 14 Seats (6D8R)

Though Republicans will control the redistricting pen as a result of holding both the legislature and governor’s office, the party map drawers will be hard-pressed to construct a map that allows their members to dominate the delegation as they did 10 years ago. Gaining a seat in 2010 reapportionment, the GOP began the decade with a 10-4 advantage in the House delegation only to see two Atlanta suburban seats slip away as a result of demographic and political changes in the metropolitan area.

Georgia is expected to remain constant in this reapportionment with their 14 seats. The GOP will attempt to make at least one of the seats they lost, District 6 (Rep. Lucy McBath) or District 7 (Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux) more Republican and thus give themselves a chance to re-claim a seat for the coming decade.

Expect a move to make one of these two seats, probably District 6, more Democratic in order to make District 7 more Republican especially since the latter CD is the most over-populated seat in the state with more than 844,000 residents and will have to shed close to 90,000 individuals to other districts.
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Early House Outlook – Part III

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2021 — Continuing with our electoral preview for the US House, today we look at 13 states in the country’s northeastern region. Monday, we conclude in the south.


• Connecticut – 5 Seats (5D)

With all of the Nutmeg State’s five congressional districts venturing past the 700,000 resident mark, each of Connecticut’s CDs appear secure after the state lost a seat in 2010 reapportionment. With Democrats holding the redistricting pen, expect only perfunctory changes in the congressional delegation map with each incumbent being awarded a safe seat. All were re-elected in 2021 within a vote percentage range between 56 and 65.


• Illinois – 18 Seats (13D5R)

Democrats have a big advantage in the Illinois delegation and, with the party leaders in control of the redistricting pen, their edge is positioned to expand. Despite the Republicans holding less than half of the number of Democratic seats comprising the delegation, it is one of the Dem’s members who is likely to be paired with another incumbent.

The state has actually lost population (approximately 250,000 residents) when compared with the 2010 census, meaning Illinois will certainly lose one CD with the outside possibility of dropping two. Since the major population loss is coming from the downstate area, the Democrat map drawers will have little trouble taking the seat from the Republicans and can justify such a draw based upon the region losing so many people. This, even though Rep. Cheri Bustos’ (D-Moline) seat has the lowest population figure in the state.

The Chicago area gives the Democrats some redistricting challenges, however. Three of their metro incumbents, Reps. Marie Newman (D-La Grange), Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove), and Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) scored re-election percentages of 56.4, 52.8, and 50.7 respectively, meaning all three will be lobbying to add more Democrats to their districts. Their lower win percentages are a clue that the metro districts are already stretched to the maximum from a Democratic perspective, so it’s possible such an over-reach could have backfire potential.


• Indiana – 9 Seats (2D7R)

The nine Hoosier State seats also appear secure from a population standpoint, so Indiana looks to be a sure bet to retain all of its nine congressional districts. One seat to watch from a competitive perspective is that of freshman Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), who won an Indianapolis suburban CD in a tight 50-46 percent margin. Democrats will target her in 2022. All of the veteran incumbents seeking re-election broke the 61 percent mark. Freshman Democrat Frank Mrvan (D-Highland/Gary) succeeded retiring Rep. Peter Visclosky (D) with a 57-40 percent victory margin.


• Maine – 2 Seats (2D)

The Pine Tree State again holds two districts with smaller base population figures for the coming decade, one from the north and the other south. Democrats hold both and will control the redistricting pen but with only approximately 30,000 people needing to move from the southern 1st District (Rep. Chellie Pingree-D) to the northern 2nd (Rep. Jared Golden-D), the map will only change marginally. The 2nd CD is the more competitive seat of the two and will again be contested but the state’s Ranked Choice Voting system tends to give the Democrats an added advantage.


• Massachusetts – 9 Seats (9D)

The Bay State, home to one of the Democrats’ most loyal constituencies in the entire country, will retain its nine districts after dropping a seat in the 2010 reapportionment. All nine Democratic incumbents are safe and will continue to be so. The victory percentage range fell between 58-74 percent for the nine current Democratic incumbents, all but one of whom was running for re-election.


• Michigan – 14 Seats (7D7R)

Michigan redistricting will be different in 2021 with the introduction of a voter-passed redistricting commission. The citizen members will be tasked with reducing the 14-member delegation to 13, and Republicans will likely find themselves on the short end. Rep. John Moolenaar’s (R-Midland) 4th CD looks to be the most vulnerable. The districts in the northern part of the state all must gain population, and with Rep. Moolenaar’s seat being surrounded by the rest, his is the most likely to be split in pieces order to feed the others.

Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly/Lansing) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), with respective 2020 win percentages of 50.9 and 50.2, will be in need of more Democrats that may not be forthcoming. Therefore, we could see a more competitive Michigan congressional delegation at least in the early part of the new decade.
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Early House Outlook – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 21, 2021 — Continuing with our electoral stage preview for the US House, today we look at 12 states in the country’s central region. Tomorrow and the following Monday, we move further east.


• Arkansas – 4 Seats (4R)

Arkansas holds four Republican districts, and the GOP controls the redistricting pen. They will obviously attempt to draw a new map that protects all four incumbents, and they should be able to do so with relative ease as the state continues to move toward the ideological right.

Arkansas had previously received Justice Department approval to draw a map where all of its 75 counties whole within the individual congressional districts, and thus exceeding the plus-or-minus one individual congressional district population variance requirement.


• Iowa – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Iowa has a hybrid redistricting system. The legislature voluntarily cedes power to a particular legislative committee, which then draws the four congressional districts based upon a mathematical population algorithm without regard to incumbent residences or political preferences. The legislature must then approve or reject the map without amendment.

The current map has produced competitive districts as is evidenced in the 2nd District being decided by just six votes in the 2020 election. Three of the state’s four CDs have seen both Republican and Democratic representation during this decade. It is likely we will see the process produce a similar map later this year.


• Kansas – 4 Seats (1D3R)

Both parties have seats at the redistricting table as Republicans control the state House and Senate while Democrats have the governorship. Republicans will attempt to at least protect the status quo but Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly can be expected to hold out for a 2R-2D plan. Any prolonged impasse will send the map to either a state or federal court in order to produce an interim map for the coming 2022 election.


• Louisiana – 6 Seats (0D4R; 2 Vacancies)

The more immediate political task Louisiana sees is filling its two vacant congressional districts. The New Orleans-Baton Rouge 2nd District has no representation because Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-New Orleans) resigned to accept a White House appointment from the Biden Administration. Rep-Elect Luke Letlow (R) tragically passed away after his election and before he was officially sworn into office. Therefore, both seats will be filled in a two-tiered March 20/April 24 special election calendar.

Republicans control the legislature, but Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) holds the veto pen. The number of seats will remain constant since the population appears relatively even through the state’s six districts. The 1st (Rep. Steve Scalise-R) and the 6th (Rep. Garret Graves-R) are over-populated while the 4th (Rep. Mike Johnson-R) and the 5th (Letlow vacancy) will need to gain residents.
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Early House Outlook – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 20, 2021 — With the presidential Inauguration dominating political attention this week, it is a good time to set the upcoming electoral stage for the US House on a 50-state basis. Today, a first of a four-part series, will begin to look at the 13 western states. During the rest of the week, we will move eastward.


• Alaska – 1 Seat (1R)
Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House, won his 25th term in November with a 54-45 percent victory in a competitive race. With Alaska being an at-large state, reapportionment and redistricting won’t change the political situation. The big question surrounding the 87-year-old congressional veteran is when will he retire?


• Arizona – 9 Seats (5D4R)
The Arizona population growth rate makes them a cinch to gain a 10th District in reapportionment. It is also clear that the new seat will be placed in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Arizona has a redistricting commission comprised of two Democrats, two Republicans, and one Independent. The latter member becomes the chairman. The membership has not yet been chosen.

The state’s marginal nature suggests that we will see a very competitive state once all 10 seats are in place. Currently, there are two districts where the winning House member received 52 percent of the vote or less. This means GOP Rep. David Schweikert (2020 winning percentage: 52.2) and Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran (2020 winning percentage: 51.6) will be looking to add more Republicans and Democrats to their seats, respectively.

An open governor’s race (Republican Gov. Doug Ducey ineligible to seek a third term) and what should be a competitive re-election for Sen. Mark Kelly (D) could cause open seats in the House delegation should any of the sitting members attempt to run statewide.


• California – 53 Seats (42D11R)
For the first time in history, the Golden State appears positioned to lose a seat in their US House delegation. With migration exiting the state exceeding those incoming, it appears the California growth rate did not keep up with the specified threshold in order to keep all of their 53 seats. The Los Angeles area is likely to absorb the loss of the seat, but which member will be paired with another is an open question.

California voters adopted an initiative before the 2010 census that established a citizens’ commission to administer redistricting under strict parameters that emphasizes keeping cities and counties whole when possible and irrespective of where any particular incumbent may reside. Therefore, with the mapping power removed from the legislature, it is possible that inside Democratic politics might play a lesser role in the redistricting process.

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