Category Archives: Election Analysis

Minnesota Rep. Hagedorn, 59, Dies After Battle With Kidney Cancer

By Jim Ellis

The late Minnesota US Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester)

Feb. 22, 2022 — After a long battle with kidney cancer, Minnesota US Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) passed away at the age of 59 on Friday, the third sitting House member to die in office during the current congressional session. Reps. Ron Wright (R-TX) and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) passed away earlier in the year. Additionally, Rep-Elect Luke Letlow (R-LA) died of COVID in late 2020, just before he would have taken office in January of 2021.

The Hagedorn death creates a vacancy in the Minnesota delegation. Gov. Tim Walz (D), who previously represented the now vacant 1st District that stretches the width of Minnesota’s southern border, will call a special election to fill the remainder of the current term.

Under the state’s election law, the special primary will be May 24, 11 weeks prior to the special general, which will run concurrent with the regular 2022 primary election on Aug. 9. The eventual winner will serve the balance of Hagedorn’s final term.

The current 1st District is politically marginal in congressional elections and has flipped back and forth between the two parties after Democrat Tim Penny won the seat in 1982, becoming the first member of his party to represent the district since 1893. Penny, former Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) and Walz each would represent the district for six terms apiece until Hagedorn was elected.

Conversely, the 1st runs considerably stronger for Republicans at the top of the ticket. Former President Trump carried the seat both in 2016 and 2020. He posted a 53-38 percent margin in his initial election, and a 54-44% spread in his ultimately unsuccessful re-election effort.

Rep. Hagedorn’s two victories, however, were close contests. In his first victorious election, after failing in three previous attempts, the result was a tight 50.1 – 49.7 percent in a 2018 open-seat campaign against former defense department official Dan Feehan. The congressman then scored a 48.6 – 45.5 percent re-election victory again over Feehan.

A special election in this district could well be a strong precursor test for the 2022 midterms since both parties will field strong candidates, heavily contest the outcome, and the winner will likely claim the seat with only a small victory spread.

Continue reading

House Incumbent Primaries, Part II: Democrats

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 21, 2022 — Part II of our incumbents’ primary challenges report concentrates on the Democratic members who find themselves in serious nomination contests. (Note: Part I — the Republicans — was published Friday. Please scroll down to read.) Nine such situations are covered in this update, with one of them, the Texas race of veteran Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) to be decided on March 1.


GA-7: Dem Pairing

Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26

Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee)
Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta)
• Bourdeaux Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $2,005,771
• McBath Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $2,452,731
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: D+16
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 58.4% D

Republicans held the redistricting pen in Georgia and after losing two Atlanta metropolitan districts in consecutive elections, it was clear the GOP map drawers were going to take one back. That translated into loading Democrats from the previously Republican 6th District into the transitioning 7th CD.

Along with bringing more Democrats into the 7th, the 6th District incumbent, Rep. McBath, decided to join them. Instead of fighting for re-election in a new Republican 6th District (R+24), she moved south to challenge freshman Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in the party primary. As you can see from the cash-on-hand totals above, both incumbents are well-heeled financially, so a major campaign is underway.

Also in the Democratic field is state Rep. Donna McLeod (D-Lawrenceville), who points out that she is the only one of the three that actually lives in the 7th CD. Her campaign has been slow to begin, so it is doubtful that she will be much of a factor, and probably will not draw enough support to force the two congressional incumbents into a runoff. Therefore, it is likely that this pairing will be settled in the May 24 primary.

Among carryover constituents Rep. Bourdeaux has a big advantage in seeing a majority of her current 7th District constituency (57 percent) remaining in the new 7th. McBath, however, sees only 12.1 percent carryover from her 6th District. The larger Democratic influx came from Rep. Hank Johnson’s 4th CD, as 26 percent of his constituency was transferred to the new 7th.

On the other hand, the new 7th is overwhelmingly minority: 29.8 percent black, 21.3 percent Hispanic, and 15.8 percent Asian. Thus, the demographics could help Rep. McBath, who is African American. Her strength within the party’s leftward faction is also a benefit in a primary contest. With each incumbent showing similar strength levels, this will be an interesting race to watch on May 24.


GA-13: Rep. David Scott

Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26
• Scott Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $1,107,286
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: D+52
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 77.9% D

After only scoring 52.9 percent in the 2020 Democratic primary against three opponents, Rep. David Scott’s (D-Atlanta) 2022 race may be even more serious. Opposing him in this election are two candidates with an election track record, former state senator and 2017 Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort, and South Fulton City Councilman Mark Baker. The latter man bills himself as the “strongest progressive” in the race, but ex-Sen. Fort was well entrenched with the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Therefore, both opponents are attacking Rep. Scott from the left, which should help him split the opposition vote. Whether such a split will be enough to again allow him to capture majority support in the May 24 primary may be another question. Rep. Scott has long been attacked over not being further to the left on the ideological spectrum, which could again be a problem for him in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic. Neither Baker nor Fort filed an FEC report at the end of the 2021, meaning they are behind on fundraising.

Rep. Scott must still be rated as the favorite to prevail, but this is another contest that will merit attention on May 24.


IL-6: Dem Pairing

Primary: June 28

Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove)
Rep. Marie Newman (D-La Grange)
• Casten Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $1,580,171
• Newman Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $573,120
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: D+6
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 51.4% D

The Illinois race is the second of the three Democratic congressional pairings, and it features sophomore Rep. Casten and freshman Rep. Newman. This particular pairing came about because of complaints that a second Hispanic seat should be drawn in Chicago.

Fearing a loss in court, the Democratic legislative leadership acquiesced and drew a new open 3rd District that is 44 percent Hispanic. As a result, Rep. Newman’s home was placed in Rep. Chuy Garcia’s (D-Chicago) 4th District, but she pivoted to run in the 6th against Rep. Casten. Her move made sense because 43 percent of her constituency was drawn into the new 6th District versus just 24 percent coming from Rep. Casten’s current 6th District.

While Casten has a financial advantage and the support of most of the Chicago Democratic establishment, Rep. Newman is a darling of the far left and will likely attract the more ideological voter that tends to dominate primary voting in both parties.

The aspect of this race that attracts little attention is that the pairing winner is not necessarily home free in the general election. With the Illinois gerrymander drawing 14 Democratic seats of 17 total districts, some of the Dem seats are weak. The 6th, with a D+6 rating from the FiveThirtyEight data entity, is one of those. Therefore, a divisive primary could make the eventual Republican nominee even more viable in the general election.

This draw was not favorable to either Democratic incumbent, and we will see a spirited fight between now and the June 28 primary.
Continue reading

House Incumbent Primaries, Part I: Republicans

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 18, 2022 — As the states complete their individual redistricting processes and candidate filing deadlines appear on the political horizon, some incumbents find themselves facing serious primary challenges. Today, we look at Republican nomination situations in states where redistricting is complete, and Monday next week, we’ll look at the Democrats.


CA-5: Rep. Tom McClintock

Primary: June 7 (Jungle)

• McClintock Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $372,569
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: R+17
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 56.6% R

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission made significant changes to the Golden State congressional map. As a result, veteran northern California Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) had his choice of two districts, one less Republican that contained more of his home area, and the other more strongly favoring the GOP but stretched from the Sacramento suburbs all the way to the Fresno area. McClintock chose the latter.

The congressman’s most serious opponent is Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig (R). California imposes a jungle primary system meaning that the top two finishers in the June qualifying election advance to the general election. Considering the Republican trends in this district, it is wholly possible that both Rep. McClintock and Supervisor Magsig will advance into the general election, especially with three Democratic candidates dividing the liberal base.


IL-15: GOP Pairing

Primary: June 28

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville)
Rep. Mary Miller (R-Oakland)
• Davis Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $1,234,171
• Miller Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $414,795
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: R+42
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 64.6% R

The Illinois Democratic gerrymander created a new uber-safe Republican 15th District that attracted both Reps. Rodney Davis and Mary Miller. Therefore, the new member here will be chosen in the June 28 Republican primary.

The race is shaping up as a clear GOP establishment versus movement conservative contest. Virtually all of the state and national Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have endorsed Davis. All of the movement right-of-center groups such as the Club for Growth and Freedom Works, along with former President Donald Trump, have endorsed Rep. Miller.

Davis also has a major fundraising advantage. Miller, on the other hand, sees 31 percent of her constituents carrying over to the new 15th, versus 28 percent for Davis. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) has the largest contingent of current constituents in the new IL-15 (36 percent) but he is running for re-election in the new 16th CD.


MI-4: GOP Pairing

Primary: Aug. 2

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland)
Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph)
• Huizenga Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $1,141,056
• Upton Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $1,467,055
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: R+9
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 51.6% R

With Michigan losing a seat in reapportionment, two of the state’s western members were destined to be paired. The new 4th District features a potential contest between Reps. Huizenga and Upton, though the latter man has not yet decided whether to seek re-election. A third candidate, state Rep. Steve Carra (R-Kalamazoo), who carries former President Trump’s endorsement, is also in the race.

Carra is not likely to be a major factor because he represents very little of the new 4th Congressional District constituency in the state legislature. This race will come down to Rep. Upton’s decision whether to seek a 19th term in the House or retire. If he runs, this will be a major summer primary contest. Should he retire, Rep. Huizenga becomes the prohibitive favorite in the primary, with the inside track for the general election, though the new 4th is more competitive than his current 2nd CD.


MS-4: Rep. Steven Palazzo

Primary: June 7 | Runoff: June 28

• Palazzo Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $ 385,211
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: R+42
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 66.5% R

A congressional ethics investigation into Rep. Steven Palazzo’s (R-Biloxi) use of campaign funds is an obvious negative as he strives to win re-nomination for a seventh term.

The investigation prompted state Sen. Brice Wiggins (R-Ocean Springs) and Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell to launch a primary challenge against the congressman, in addition to four others. Local business owner Carl Boyanton has thrown $550,000 of his own money into his campaign, making him a factor, too. This field could grow or retract as the March 1 candidate filing deadline looms on the political horizon.

It remains to be seen whether the investigation hinders Rep. Palazzo to the point of forcing him into a runoff — he has survived other tough primary challenges with larger than expected percentages — but the possibility of going to a secondary vote is certainly real. Should Palazzo be forced into a runoff, his re-nomination could be in serious jeopardy.
Continue reading

New York Rep. Kathleen Rice
Won’t Seek Re-Election

By Jim Ellis

New York Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City)

Feb. 17, 2022 — Four-term New York Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) announced Tuesday, on her 57th birthday, that she will retire from Congress. Saying, “I have always believed that holding political office is neither a destiny nor a right. As elected officials, we must give all we have and then know when it is time to allow others to serve,” the congresswoman stated in her retirement release.

Prior to her election to the US House in 2014, Rice served as Nassau County District Attorney for 10 years after being a member of the prosecutorial staff. Rep. Rice is the 30th Democrat to not seek re-election to the House. The total number of open seats now rises to 51, when counting the open Democratic and Republican districts, and the seats created through reapportionment and redistricting from the various states.

The Rice retirement creates a fourth open seat in the NY delegation, and she is the fifth Empire State member to leave the House at the end of the current term. Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) announced his retirement early in the session, but his 23rd District is not technically an open seat because Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) has chosen to run there since her 22nd District was combined with retiring Rep. John Katko’s (R-Syracuse) CD to make a new Democratic seat.

Three of the state’s four open seats appear on Long Island. In addition to Rice’s 4th District, the 1st and 3rd are also open because Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) are both running for governor. This means that freshman Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) will be the most senior Long Island member in the next Congress.

While redistricting changed Rep. Zeldin’s 1st District into a more Democratic-friendly seat, Rep. Garbarino’s south shore Long Island seat became more Republican. Overall, the four Long Island districts needed to gain more than 148,000 new residents to meet the New York per district population goal of 776,971 individuals, or an average of adding just over 37,000 people per CD.

Though three of the four LI seats are constructed to elect a Democrat, the margins are not so strong as to eliminate competition. In wave Republican election years, and 2022 may be such, these open seats will be in play.

According to the FiveThirtyEight data operation, Rep. Zeldin’s 1st District moves from a R+10 to a D+6. Dave’s Redistricting App projects the composite Democratic vote to be 57.0 percent as compared to just 41.0 percent for Republicans. President Biden would have carried the new 1st, which moves east to west from the Hamptons to Bethpage State Park, by a 10.8 percent margin.

Continue reading

An Alabama Barnburner

By Jim Ellis

Alabama US Senate candidate Mike Durant

Feb. 16, 2022 — A trio of polls released in the past three weeks now suggest that any one of the top Alabama US Senate candidates can win the Republican nomination.

With Democrats basically conceding the general election because none of their four filed candidates can be considered a legitimate threat to score an upset win in November, the GOP nomination contest will decide who will succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R).

The Alabama Republican Senate primary is now turning into a serious three-way affair, as former “Black Hawk Down” pilot Mike Durant apparently has become a legitimate contender. According to most recent three surveys, what originally looked to be a potential outright win for US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) on May 24 now appears surely headed for a June 21 secondary runoff election.

FarmPAC, the political arm of the Alabama Farmers Federation, this week began to publicize their Cherry Communications survey (Feb. 2-6; 600 likely Alabama Republican primary voters, live interview). The results post Congressman Brooks to a tight 34-29-24 percent lead over former Business Council of Alabama president and CEO Katie Britt, whom FarmPAC supports, and Durant, who now runs a defense engineering company headquartered in Alabama. In this survey, Durant again emerges as an additional contender with staying power who can clear a victory path.

As February began, Britt released her internal Deep Root Analytics survey (Jan. 29-31; 2,088 likely Alabama GOP primary voters; live interview, automated response calls and online) that gave her a slight 29-28-23 percent split over Brooks and Durant. Finally, WPA Intelligence, polling for the Club for Growth who supports Rep. Brooks (Jan. 25-27; 513 likely Alabama Republican primary voters live interview), saw the congressman holding a 35-30-25 percent edge over Durant, who vaulted into second place in this poll, and Britt.

All three candidates have strong positives and the financial wherewithal to remain competitive until voters first cast their ballots at the end of May. Two of the three, Brooks and Britt, can expect to benefit from active outside support, while Durant is already funding his effort to the tune of just over $4 million with likely more to come.

Britt is the leading fundraiser. At year’s end, she had raised just under $5 million, all from donors, and reported approximately $4.1 million cash-on-hand. Sen. Shelby has also committed to spending $5 million from his own campaign treasury as an independent expenditure to support Britt, his former chief of staff.

Rep. Brooks, never known as an aggressive fundraiser, had brought in $2.15 million at the end of 2021, with almost $2 million remaining in his treasury. The Club for Growth is likely to spend seven figures in their own independent expenditure to aid the congressman’s statewide effort.

As mentioned above, Durant has invested over $4 million into his effort according to his December year-end financial disclosure report, which represented virtually all of his campaign treasury. He has already spent well over $1 million on a media blitz that has successfully placed him in serious contention.

Continue reading