Category Archives: Election Analysis

Alaska Senate: A Re-Emergence

By Jim Ellis

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate

Aug. 4, 2021 — The Alaska Survey Research firm released a new Alaska Senate poll finding Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) improving her standing, but an even more drastic potential development has surfaced.

The poll (July 11-21; 947 registered Alaska voters, online) shows Sen. Murkowski posting her best numbers of the year, leading former State Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka (R), 36-27 percent. Tshibaka, already the candidate who the Alaska Republican Party and former President Donald Trump have officially endorsed, was leading the senator in earlier published surveys (Change Research: May 22-25; 1,023 likely Alaska voters, Tshibaka 39-19 percent. Cygnal: released March 29; 500 registered Alaska voters, Tshibaka 34-19 percent).

In the July ASR poll, state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson (D-Anchorage) and former Senate nominee Joe Miller (R/Libertarian) trailed the two leaders with 19 and 18 percent, respectively. Under Alaska’s new top-four primary system, all four of these candidates, however, would advance into the general election.

In even better news for Sen. Murkowski, the ASR poll tested her against Tshibaka in a head-to-head match-up and the incumbent would defeat the challenger, 55-45 percent. The bad news for Murkowski is the new Alaska voting system will not allow for such a pairing. Beginning with the 2022 election, all candidates run on a jungle primary ballot in the Aug. 16, 2022, nomination contest and the top four contenders, regardless of percentage attained will advance into the general election. Therefore, testing for a one-on-one ballot test should no longer be applicable in analyzing the Alaska electoral system.

Beyond the poll, a new development could be on the Alaska political horizon. Over the weekend, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, addressed a group of evangelical Christian leaders. Asked if she would run for the Senate, Palin retorted, “if God wants me to run for the US Senate next year, I will.” She then, however, scolded the leaders saying, “I would say you guys better be there for me this time, because a lot of people were not there for me last time.”

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Ohio Specials Today

Ohio’s Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2021 — Though the two Ohio special congressional elections won’t officially be decided until the Nov. 2 general election, today’s nomination contest in both the vacant 11th and 15th congressional districts will unofficially choose the succeeding representatives in the respective Democratic and Republican primary elections.

District 11, the vacated Cleveland-Akron seat because former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) resigned to accept her appointment as Housing & Urban Development Secretary, is a solidly Democratic seat (Biden ’20: 80-19 percent; Clinton ’16: 80-17 percent). Though yielding a Democratic primary of 13 candidates, the race is boiling down to a two-way contest between former state senator and 2020 Bernie Sanders for president national co-chair Nina Turner and Cuyahoga County councilwoman and local Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown.

The 15th District lies in southern Ohio and contains some of the south Columbus suburbs of Franklin County along with 11 largely rural counties southwest, south, and southeast of the state’s capital city. The former incumbent here, Steve Stivers (R-Columbus), resigned his office in May to accept a position as president/CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. This, after testing the waters for a US Senate run. OH-15 is a reliable Republican district (Trump ’20: 56-42 percent; Trump ’16: 55-40 percent) that has grown more conservative over time.

Originally, it appeared that former Sen. Turner was a lock in the 11th District. She had big leads in polling and fundraising, but in the past six weeks, Brown has made major strides. While the latest polling still projects her trailing just outside the polling margin of error, the prevailing political trend is definitively moving in the local official’s direction.

This race is also shaping up as a battle between the two major factions within today’s Democratic Party: the Democratic socialists, led by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and the political action committee known as the Justice Democrats, opposite the national party establishment featuring such individuals as House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the Congressional Black Caucus leadership, and Hillary Clinton.

While keeping her ads positive, some of Brown’s outside supporters, namely the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC, have highlighted public comments Turner previously made about President Biden, Vice President Harris, all before they were elected to their present positions, and the Democratic Party in general. Conversely, Brown’s campaign ads highlight her strong support for President Biden and his stated policy agenda.

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Lamb Decision Affects Redistricting

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

Aug. 2, 2021 — Last week’s news reports indicating that western Pennsylvania US Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Mt. Lebanon/Pittsburgh) will enter the open Senate race on Aug. 6, could mean the congressional district he leaves behind becomes a redistricting victim.

Assuming the reports are accurate, and the congressman does launch a Senate campaign, he will be the only Pennsylvania US House delegation member to create an open seat. All others appear poised to run for re-election. This means the Lamb district will likely become the top option for elimination since reapportionment reduces by one the 18-member Keystone State delegation.

The Census Bureau is now telling the states they will finally begin receiving their redistricting data the during the week of Aug. 16. It appears the total data transmission will come in two waves, so all states should have what they need to begin holding public input hearings in early September, and then drawing districts. This is more than six months behind a typical redistricting calendar.

Based upon the latest available information, the state will have 17 congressional districts with a population number of what appears to be just under 765,000 individuals. Looking at the current 18 districts, all must gain population, hence the reason the state is losing another CD. Since 1930, Pennsylvania has lost more congressional districts than any other state.

The region requiring the least new population is Pennsylvania’s southeastern sector, in and around the city of Philadelphia. The western segment is the area that needs the most population with the exception of Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Dillsburg/Harrisburg/York) south-central 10th District that will require the lowest human increase, most likely fewer than 20,000 persons.

The three seats needing the greatest influx are all in west Pennsylvania, surrounding the city of Pittsburgh. Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson’s (R-Howard) predominantly rural 15th CD looks to be the district most in need of additional residents, likely over 85,000 individuals. Next is Rep. Mike Kelly’s (R-Butler) 16th District that begins north of Pittsburgh and moves all the way to Lake Erie. This seat would need approximately 80,000 more people. Third is the district south of Pittsburgh to the West Virginia border, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler’s (R-Peters Township) 14th CD, that must also gain another 80,000 bodies.

Lamb’s 17th District that encompasses almost half of Allegheny County, all of Beaver County, and a sliver of Butler, needs over 50,000 more people, which pairs well with Rep. Mike Doyle’s (D-Pittsburgh) downtown 18th District that will likely require approximately 65,000 new residents. Therefore, eliminating District 17 with now no incumbent to protect it would allow the downtown seat to be filled and remain solidly Democratic, but also meet the population needs in the districts to the south, southeast, and north of Pittsburgh.

Politically, such a configuration would likely change the 9R-9D delegation to 9R-8D, and that will be a hard sell for the Republican legislature to make to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, especially when he knows a partisan Democratic state Supreme Court could well have the final say once the inevitable lawsuits are filed.

Such a configuration involving the elimination of current District 17 works fairly seamlessly, though, particularly if the final map improves for the Democratic incumbents in the politically marginal eastern PA seats of District 7 (Rep. Susan Wild-D; Allentown/ Bethlehem/Easton), and 8 (Rep. Matt Cartwright-D; Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre/Mt. Pocono). This might be enough to sell a map that forces the Democrats to take the one-seat loss in the west.

There are many ways to re-configure congressional maps, and we will soon see many versions coming from Pennsylvania and all other multi-district states. Rep. Lamb’s move to the Senate race, however, if in fact he ultimately makes the statewide jump, will significantly change the course of Pennsylvania congressional redistricting.

Poll: Newsom in Trouble

By Jim Ellis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

July 30, 2021 — The University of California at Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies released their latest Golden State survey that finds Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) strength in the upcoming recall election dissipating.

According to UC Berkeley, among likely voters, 47 percent would vote to recall Gov. Newsom and 50 percent would not, clearly the closest ballot test result seen to date. The recall election is scheduled for Sept. 14, and voters will first choose whether to remove the governor from office before choosing a replacement among 46 ballot qualified candidates. The replacement candidates’ votes count only if a majority supports removing the subject from office, in this case Gov. Newsom.

The Berkeley poll (July 18-24; 5,795 registered California voters; 3,266 likely California recall election voters, online) finds Newsom in trouble only among likely voters, those screened as almost certain to participate in the recall election. Within the entire polling sample, he returns to safe territory as the respondents break only 36-51 percent for removing him from office.

The major difference is partisanship. The parties, as one might guess, break in polarized fashion. A total of 91 percent of Democrats would vote against the recall while 95 percent of Republicans favor removal.

The independent and minor party sectors become interesting, however. Among the large No Party Preference group, 46 percent would vote to recall Newsom and 50 percent would not. The combined minor parties, which only account for approximately six percent of the electorate are breaking hard for the recall position. Within the minor party segment, 68 percent would vote to remove as compared to only 30 percent supporting the retain option.

Among Republicans, 90 percent say they are enthusiastic about the election, while 58 percent of Democrats say the same. Among the substantial segment in the “No Party Preference” or independent category, 53 percent say they are enthusiastic.

The polling analysis suggests that the governor’s fundamental problem is that Democrats are “almost unanimous” in their belief that he will win the recall election. This substantially explains the Democrats’ lack of solid enthusiasm for the irregular Sept. 14 stand-alone election.

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Ellzey’s Upset Win in TX-6

Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) tallied an upset win in the TX-6 special election Tuesday.

By Jim Ellis

July 29, 2021 — Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) tallied an upset win in the TX-6 double-Republican special runoff election Tuesday, defeating the race’s nominal favorite, Susan Wright, widow of the late Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington).

While polling and endorsements suggested a Wright victory – the most recent public poll from American Viewpoint released last week projected Wright holding a 10-point, 44-34 percent, advantage – the Ellzey win should be viewed as a mild upset. This is the third election in the four in which Rep-Elect Ellzey was a candidate where he considerably exceeded expectations.

Jake Ellzey, an airline pilot, rancher, and Iraq and Afghan War veteran, first came on the political scene with a surprising second-place finish in the 2018 open seat 6th District congressional primary, forcing then-Tarrant County Tax Assessor Wright into a secondary runoff election. Mr. Wright was viewed as a clear favorite in the follow-up vote but managed only a 52-48 percent win, with Ellzey again out-performing polling and projections. He then immediately came back an easily won an open seat primary and general election in a safe Republican state House of Representatives district.

When Rep. Wright passed away, the special election drew 23 candidates including Ms. Wright and state Rep. Ellzey. Local forecasters were expecting Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez to secure a runoff position against Ms. Wright, possibly even perhaps finishing in first position, but Ellzey again surprised the analysts by edging Sanchez for second place. In the underdog role again, Ellzey recorded a 53-47 percent win.

Several noteworthy points came from the race. First, turnout was very low, only a 38,994 unofficial participation figure. This compares to 78,374 cast ballots in the special jungle primary for a drop-off rate of just over 50 percent. Considering that this was a double-Republican runoff and Democrats had little reason to vote since they had no candidate, such a small return voter figure is not particularly surprising.

Second, the early vote and election day vote proportion were virtually identical. Both Rep. Ellzey and Ms. Wright doubled their early vote total almost exactly. Conversely, in the jungle primary, Ellzey recorded over 70 percent of his total vote in the early phase, while Ms. Wright drew only 42 percent of her aggregate share from those voting prior to election day. Therefore, Ellzey significantly improved his election day operation.

Third, the big change from the jungle primary to the runoff election was the vote from Tarrant County, the district’s largest local entity. In the initial election, Ms. Wright ran strong in rural Navarro County and Ellzey did likewise in his home county of Ellis. This pattern remained consistent Tuesday night.

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Ohio Specials Prelude

By Jim Ellis

OH-11

July 28, 2021 — Voters in north Texas went to the polls yesterday to decide the double-Republican runoff in their state’s vacant 6th District, but there is unfolding action in the two Ohio special elections right now. The Buckeye State’s vacant CD’s will culminate with partisan primary elections next week, on Aug. 3.

First, the Mellman Group, polling for the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC (July 13-17; 400 OH-11 likely Democratic primary voters, live interview), sees the multi-candidate contest in the Cleveland-Akron seat that has evolved into a race between two candidates getting even closer.

Mellman’s ballot test finds former state senator and ex-Bernie Sanders for president national co-chair Nina Turner leading Cuyahoga County ouncilmember and local Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown by a tightening 41-36 percent spread with the momentum again flowing toward the latter woman. The remaining 11 candidates all split an aggregate five percent, with the remainder categorized as undecided/don’t know/refused to answer.

We can expect a very active final week as the candidates continue attempting to convince their voters to cast early ballots or visit the polls a week from tomorrow. The eventual Democratic nominee will become the prohibitive favorite heading into the Nov. 2 special general election. The winner will replace former Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) who resigned the seat upon her confirmation as Housing & Urban Development Secretary in President Biden’s cabinet.

Mellman’s most recent effort delivered the closest result from a Democratic polling firm. Compared to their June poll, Brown is the beneficiary of a net 19-point swing. In the June poll, Mellman found a 50-26 percent spread in favor of Turner. In early July, Normington Petts, polling for the Brown campaign, also detected movement toward their client. They forecast a 43-36 percent result, certainly in the same realm as the Mellman poll conducted more than a week later. The original Mellman poll came in April and found Turner more than doubling Brown’s support, at 42-19 percent.

The primary campaign is dividing along the past Democratic primary presidential lines. The Bernie Sanders’ group, including the candidate himself, has endorsed Turner, along with the Justice Democrats PAC associated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and their individual congressional supporters.

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TX-6 Special Election Today

By Jim Ellis

Susan Wright, favored in today’s TX-6 special election

July 27, 2021 — The late Texas US Rep. Ron Wright’s (R-Arlington) replacement will be chosen today as the double-Republican special congressional runoff election draws to a conclusion. The late congressman’s widow, Susan Wright (R), is favored over state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie), but low turnout elections often produce surprising results.

From a partisan context, the race is anti-climactic since we already know a Republican will claim the seat and expand the House Republican conference total to the 212 mark. Democrats hold 220 seats.

Two more vacant House seats will largely be decided next Tuesday when voters in two Ohio districts will go to the polls in partisan primary contests. In each case, winning the party nomination is virtually tantamount to claiming the seat, so it is highly likely that the two parties will split the elections. The Ohio nominees, however, will have to wait until Nov. 2 for their final vote. The special election season will conclude on Jan. 11, 2022, when South Florida voters will choose a successor to the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) in the state’s 20th District.

As is generally the case in special elections, voter turnout is the critical factor. The Texas Secretary of State has released the 6th District early voting participation numbers, and we see 20,534 ballots having been cast through July 23. In the May 1 jungle primary election, 45,259 people voted early, or 57.7 percent of the total voting universe for that election (78,471).

So far in this runoff, only 4.2 percent of the registered voter universe of 493,077 individuals have cast their ballot. Considering that 65.4 percent of Ellzey’s vote came via early voting in the special primary as compared to 47.2 percent for Wright, the low early totals should prove a benefit to the latter candidate.

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