Category Archives: Election Analysis

9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Could Force Arizona’s Hand

By Jim Ellis

Appointed Arizona Sen. (and former representative) Martha McSally (R)

Aug. 13, 2019 — Soon after Republican Congress-woman Martha McSally was appointed to the Senate, a group of Arizona voters — two Democrats, a Repub-lican, a Libertarian, and an Independent — challenged the length of time that she could serve without going to election. Now the case awaits a ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that could force the state to hold an early special election.

Sen. John McCain (R), who was re-elected in 2018, passed away in late August almost a year ago, on the 25th. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) then appointed former Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to serve until the 2020 election, but Kyl only pledged to stay through 2018. He then resigned before the new Congress took office at the beginning of this year. Gov. Ducey responded by appointing then-Rep. McSally (R-Tucson), who had just lost the 2018 open seat US Senate election to then-Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix).

Because Sen. McCain died so early into his term, there would be an appointment followed by a special election. The appointment would extend to the next general election in 2020, with the winner serving the balance of the term. Therefore, whoever wins next November’s special election wouldn’t be eligible to run for a full six-year term until 2024.

Under Arizona law, which is similar to succession laws in 35 other states, the governor appoints an interim senator who serves until the next regular election. In 14 states, which have systems similar to what the plaintiffs are demanding, a special election is scheduled at the earliest possible date according to the individual state law.

In Sen. McSally’s case her interim term would stretch to 27 months, which the group of plaintiffs argues is too long a time to not give the voters a say. The federal district court judge rejected the argument, but the plaintiffs appealed to the 9th Circuit. Late last week, the appellate court agreed to hear the case, and will do so in an expedited manner.

The 2020 Arizona special election promises to be one of the most hard-fought campaigns during the cycle. Even at this early date it is already clear that the two major party nominees will be Sen. McSally and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), who is the husband of former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson).

The contest is already almost at fever pitch. In fact, Kelly raised more money in the 2nd Quarter than any other US Senate candidate, $4.24 million, but he was closely followed by Sen. McSally who raised the second-most of any federal candidate in the country, $3.4 million. Kelly had $5.9 million cash-on-hand at the end of June while Sen. McSally had $4.4 million.

Continue reading

Projected Democrat Delegate Count

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 12, 2019 — Several polls in key states have been released in early August, so it is a good time to again review the Democratic presidential delegate count estimate based upon the available data.

Projected delegate counts based on polling in nine key states of Democratic candidates jockeying for their party’s nomination for president in 2020.

We see new polls from Iowa, New Hampshire, California, Texas, North Carolina, Washington, and Pennsylvania. Adding the numbers from Nevada and South Carolina — important because this pair is part of the momentum setting First Four — we can gain a decent, though not wholly accurate, picture of where the race would stand if delegate apportionment were based upon these polling totals.

The most current surveys come from North Carolina, Iowa, and Pennsylvania all conducted between July 29 and Aug. 5.

In chronological order, based upon the latest studies, we begin with the Tar Heel State. Survey USA polled the North Carolina Democratic electorate (Aug. 1-5; 534 likely North Carolina Democratic primary voters) and find former Vice President Joe Biden leading his opponents by 21 points. He would post 36 percent as compared to Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) scoring 15 and 13 percent, respectively. All others fall to single digits.

Accounting for some of the lower-tier candidates eventually dropping out before voting begins, it is likely that the three listed above would exceed the 15 percent threshold to qualify for delegates. If so, Biden would capture approximately 62 delegates, Sen. Sanders would earn 26, and Sen. Warren, 22.

Monmouth University conducted a new Iowa poll (Aug. 1-4; 401 likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants) and found much different results than when we last visited this electorate through the Change Research data in July. Those results projected the top five candidates qualifying for delegate apportionment, but Monmouth sees things quite differently.

According to their latest numbers, it is only Biden and Sen. Warren who would exceed the 15 percent threshold and qualify for delegates, polling at 28 and 19 percent respectively. Therefore, Iowa’s 41 first ballot delegates would split 24 for Biden and 17 for Warren.

Continue reading

The Open Seat Review

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 9, 2019 — With so many seats coming open during the past 10 days, it’s time to review exactly which districts will be incumbent-less for the coming election and how many are truly competitive.

With Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Heath/Rockwall) withdrawing from his nomination as Director of National Intelligence, it returned Texas’ 4th District to the incumbents’ list, but that move was quickly negated when fellow Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW Area) announced his retirement.

Taking those moves into consideration and including the two North Carolina special congressional elections that will be filled on Sept. 10, a total of 16 seats are open headed into the next election. Of the 16, Republicans hold, or last held in the case of the disputed NC-9 result from 2018, all but three of the open seats. Looking at the coming 16 campaigns, all can expect contested primaries in at least one party and seven look to be highly competitive during the general election.

Though the retirement action has been swift of late, the aggregate number of coming vacancies is still very low, especially when remembering that the number of cycle open seats throughout this decade has fallen between 47 and 64, inclusive.

The list below depicts the open House districts and their current status:


AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile)
• Trump ’16: 63-34 | • Romney ’12: 62-37

This southern Alabama seat will be settled in the GOP nomination contest. A run-off after the March 3 primary is likely and will likely feature a two-person combination from the group comprised of former state Sen. Bill Hightower, state Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, and businessman Wes Lambert. The eventual GOP nominee wins the seat in the November 2020 election.
Safe Republican


AL-2: Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery)
• Trump ’16: 65-33 | • Romney ’12: 63-36

Rep. Roby was one of the surprise retirement announcements, but her leaving the seat open for the next election doesn’t cause the Republicans any harm. Expect a crowded Republican primary and a two-person run-off to ensue. The eventual Republican nominee wins the seat. So far, state Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) and former state Rep. Barry Moore are the most prominent candidates.
Safe Republican


Continue reading

Mississippi Governor Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

Mississippi state flag

Aug. 8, 2019 — Voters in the Magnolia State of Mississippi went to the polls to choose open race nominees for the first time in eight years on Tuesday. Incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited and ineligible to seek re-election in 2019.

As expected, Attorney General Jim Hood easily dispatched seven Democratic opponents and captured the party nomination outright with a 69 percent statewide win. Hood, often called “the most successful Democratic politician in the South” because of winning four consecutive statewide elections as Mississippi’s AG, scored majority support in all but six of the 80 reporting counties. At this writing, two counties still had not released their vote counts.

The Republican side is headed for an Aug. 27 run-off, as Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who earned Gov. Bryant’s backing for this election campaign, looks to be falling just a point short of securing the nomination. Of the estimated outstanding votes, Reeves would have to garner about 81 percent in order to win outright. Since his strongest county, tiny Coahoma, gave him 67.5 percent of the vote but from a total universe of only 120 voters, it indicates that attracting 81 percent of the outstanding ballots is not mathematically feasible.

Therefore, Reeves advances into the secondary election against former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr., who placed second with 33 percent of the vote compared to Reeves’ 49 percent. The third candidate in the race, state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando), captured 18 percent and won two counties. Judge Waller finished first in seven counties.

Obviously, Reeves’ dominant showing in carrying 71 counties, which was almost enough for him to claim the nomination, now makes him a heavy favorite for the run-off. It will be interesting to see if Judge Waller comes under pressure not to force the secondary vote and an award the nomination to Reeves in order to unify the party and better prepare for the campaign to oppose Hood.

Turnout proved high in comparison with other races of note, at least for Republicans. The still growing turnout figure of 366,477 Republican voters tops the last open gubernatorial race back in 2011 when just under 290,000 individuals voted in that particular Republican primary. The Democrats’ 276,664 voter turnout figure increases the total participation figure in yesterday’s vote to 643,141 individuals with the two counties still outstanding.

Continue reading

Now, Texas Rep. Marchant Bows Out

By Jim Ellis

Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area)

Aug. 7 2019 — The string of House retirements continues this week as eight-term Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell/DFW area) announced that he, too, will leave the House at the end of the current term. Combined with his time in the Texas legislature, Marchant will have served 34 consecutive years in elective office.

The 24th District has been a focal point of the Texas congressional scene since Democrats position the seat high on their conversion opportunity list because of its close 2018 result. Despite Democratic nominee Jan McDowell spending less than $100,000 on her campaign, she came within a 51-48 percent margin of upsetting the veteran congressman, a difference of approximately 8,100 votes.

The vote drop-off from the 2016 presidential year, as it relates to turnout, was only four percent in 2018 compared to 42 percent when contrasting the 2014 midterm to the 2012 presidential election year, thus partially explaining why the latest results are so different.

Texas Congressional District 24, currently represented in the US House by Kenny Marchant.

The 24th District is the region surrounding DFW Airport, and contains parts of Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton Counties. President Trump carried the seat with a 51-44 percent margin, down from Mitt Romney’s 60-38 percent, and the 58-41 percent margin that John McCain recorded back in 2008. Then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke slipped past Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in the November election by the same margin that Rep. Marchant won re-election, 51-48 percent, however.

Over his eight elections, Marchant averaged 61.8 percent of the vote, but 58.2 percent since the district was drawn in its present fashion from as part of the 2011 redistricting process.

Continue reading