Category Archives: Election Analysis

Sen. Sinema Officially Becomes an Independent; Rep. Khanna Considers Senate Race; Automatic Recount Beginning in Rep. Boebert’s CO-3

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Dec. 12, 2022

Senate

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ)

Arizona: Sen. Sinema Officially Becomes an Independent — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema on Friday announced that she is leaving the party and will represent Arizona as an Independent. As her standing before the Democratic Party electorate is poor, this move seems to clearly indicate that she is preparing for a re-election campaign. According to job approval ratings that were taken from polls conducted well before the November election, Sen. Sinema’s numbers had dropped to the point where she would be a severe underdog in a Democratic primary against her likely intra-party opponent, US Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix). In a three-way race against Gallego and a Republican nominee, however, her re-election chances significantly improve.

Little will change in terms of her voting record, but the campaign strategy completely transforms for all involved. Not having to worry about re-nomination, Sen. Sinema will advance directly into the general election assuming she can obtain valid registered voter petition signatures from 45,000 Arizonans. She can begin signature gathering right away, so even this large number should be attainable over such a long duration.

Rep. Gallego, who had been rumored as a Sinema Democratic primary challenger, continues to move forward with his Senate plans. While admittedly convening a Senate planning group, the congressman says he will not formally decide about running until after the first of the year. Republican Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb also confirms he is considering entering the Senate GOP primary.

Regardless of who decides to run, the 2024 Arizona Senate race will be another contest attracting huge national attention. Sen. Sinema’s move to the Independent ballot line certainly increases her chances of winning, but she is certainly no lock to claim a second term in the next election.

California: Rep. Khanna Considers Senate Race — California Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont), who was just elected to a fourth term in the House, said over the weekend that he would consider running for the Senate in 2024 if incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), who will be 91 years of age at the time of the next election, decides to retire as expected.

Rep. Khanna further said he would more than likely seek re-election in 2024, but the door is clearly open to him exploring a senatorial run in what is expected to be a crowded Democratic battle should the seat open. The congressman has been a strong fundraiser, averaging a total receipts figure of over $4 million per election cycle for his four successful congressional campaigns along with $5-plus million remaining in his federal account, so he would have the financial base to begin a statewide run.

House

CO-3: Automatic Recount Beginning — The recount for the close CO-3 congressional race featuring Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) and Democratic former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch is close to completion in the district that covers Colorado’s Western Slope region. Though Frisch has already conceded the race to Rep. Boebert, the recount is taking place under the state’s election law that mandates a re-tabulation for any contest that falls within a margin of just one-half a percent.

Though Rep. Boebert’s 548-vote lead from 327,124 ballots cast is expected to stand, the 27 involved counties that comprise the 3rd District must continue the recount. Frisch says he is likely to run again in 2024. The recount process must be completed by tomorrow so the election certification process can be completed.

VA-4: Special Election Candidates Beginning to Come Forward — While Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has yet to call a special congressional election to replace the late Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) who passed away in late November, several individuals have come forward to announce their candidacies.

The first is state Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-Richmond), who has been a long-time supporter and confidant of Rep. McEachin’s. State Sen. Jennifer McCellan (D-Richmond), who placed third in the 2021 Democratic gubernatorial primary, also says she will enter the special congressional election. Before winning her state Senate seat in 2017, McClellan served six terms in the state House of Delegates.

For the Republicans, who have little chance in a 4th District that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as D+30, their two-time nominee and Christian pastor Leon Benjamin says he will enter the special election field.

Virginia’s 4th Congressional District begins in Richmond and then travels south all the way to the North Carolina border. The CD includes the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, and Emporia, along with the Colonial Heights, Chester, and Lawrenceville communities.

North Carolina Redistricting Again Front and Center: A Deeper Dive

North Carolina Congressional District Plan Court-Ordered in 2022, used for the 2022 election (click on map to go to the state’s interactive map)


By Jim Ellis — Friday, Dec. 9, 2022

Redistricting

North Carolina: Redistricting Under Scrutiny — During the past decade, no state has been forced to draw more redistricting maps than the Tar Heel State of North Carolina. Since the 2010 census, the Republican legislature and the Democratic state Supreme Court have gone back and forth over what is a partisan gerrymander or a legal district.

The North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case was heard before the US Supreme Court on Wednesday, and it is a potential landmark case — but some North Carolina state political sources suggest the arguments may go by the proverbial wayside. The high court will rule before the end of June, but before such a decision is rendered the new North Carolina legislature may draft updated redistricting plans for the US House, state Senate, and state House of Representatives. Since the current set of court maps are only interim plans, the legislature can replace them with permanent draws at any time. 

One of the Republicans’ more important victories in the November election was winning a majority on the North Carolina state Supreme Court. Now, with five Republican justices and two Democrats, many in the legislature believe the time will be right to craft new redistricting maps, plans they believe will this time pass legal muster through a different and more favorable state Supreme Court. 

If this occurs as described, and new maps are enacted – remember, in North Carolina, the governor has no veto power over redistricting legislation – it is possible that the action could render as moot the case before SCOTUS. If so, the issue of whether the Constitution views state legislatures as solely independent when handling redistricting could well go unanswered.

The North Carolina state Supreme Court rejected the Republican legislature’s plan again last year. Under that draw, which the court deemed a partisan gerrymander, the Republicans could have won 10 of the state’s 14 congressional districts. North Carolina was one of the states that earned a new seat in national reapportionment. Therefore, a 10-4 split would have meant a net gain of three Republican seats when compared to the previous court map upon which the 13-member NC congressional delegation had last run.

Instead, under the state Supreme Court’s draw, the new Tar Heel State delegation features seven Democrats and seven Republicans. The map awarded the new 14th District to the Charlotte area as a safe D+11 seat according to the FiveThirtyEight data organization calculation. State Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), who was originally a 2022 candidate for the US Senate, won the new district with an easy 58-42 percent victory.

The other seat to go Democratic was the created open 13th CD, located in the south Raleigh suburbs that stretched to include the Democratic city of Fayetteville. The court balanced the district by adding Republican Johnston County. FiveThirtyEight rated this seat R+3, but Democratic state Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Raleigh) defeated Republican Bo Hines by a 51.6 – 48.4 percent margin.

The other major affected area that changed between the original Republican map and the state Supreme Court’s draw was the Greensboro-anchored seat of Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro). Under the Republican plan, this district would have favored a Republican candidate, and Rep. Manning would have had a difficult run for re-election. The Court altered this seat, too, thus giving Rep. Manning an even better district than the one to which she was originally elected — a 6th District seat now rated as D+9.

If the congressional map is in fact re-drawn early in the new state legislative session, we can expect these geographic areas again to be the most affected. If the Republican legislative leaders make a move to finalize permanent redistricting maps, then it might be some time before the issue of independent state legislatures relating to redistricting again comes before the high court. 

Or, if SCOTUS still issues a ruling on the North Carolina case irrespective as to what the legislature does, it could force even further changes in what may again be a new Tar Heel State congressional map.

Indiana Gov. Holcomb Leaves Door Open for Senate Bid, Sen. Braun Up in Released Gov Poll; CA-22 Re-Match Already Building; NC Redistricting Case Could be Moot

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022

Senate

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R)

Indiana: Gov. Holcomb Leaves Door Open — Early political reports coming from the Hoosier State suggest that Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) will not pursue a 2024 US Senate bid when his tenure as governor comes to an end. Gov. Holcomb is ineligible to seek a third term.

When asked about running for the Senate this week on wishtv.com, however, Gov. Holcomb replied, “there’ll be time for me to think about the future in the future. But it would be next to irresponsible for me to take my eye off the job that I’ve got.”

This response suggests the Senate race door is not fully closed and will certainly remain an option for Holcomb as time moves forward. With universal statewide name identification and the ability to quickly raise large amounts money, Gov. Holcomb has the luxury of waiting to make a decision until he sees how an open Senate field develops. First-term Sen. Mike Braun (R) is a clearly preparing a run for governor, thus leaving his Senate seat open.

House

CA-22: Re-Match Already Building — California Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) is tied for representing the most Democratic seat in the country that sends a Republican to the US House. Long Island Rep-Elect Anthony D’Esposito (R-Hempstead) holds the other. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates both Valadao’s CA-22 and Mr. D’Esposito’s NY-4 at D+10.

Despite the odds stacked against him, Rep. Valadao was able to post a 51.5 – 48.5 percent victory over state Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) in November, who was arguably the most difficult opponent Valadao faced in his five winning electoral campaigns. Yesterday, Salas, who risked his Assembly seat to run for Congress, filed a committee to seek a re-match in 2024. If he ultimately follows through and runs two years from now, this race will again become a top national Democratic conversion target.

Governor

Indiana: Sen. Braun Releases Gov Poll — Sen. Mike Braun (R) is clearly moving toward making a quick gubernatorial announcement after filing a state gubernatorial campaign committee last week. Reports suggest that Sen. Braun may make his formal declaration as early as next week. In preparation for launching a gubernatorial bid, he just released the results of an internal poll.

The study, from the Mark It Red research group (Nov. 18-22; sample size not released), finds Sen. Braun opening with a large Republican primary advantage in what will be an open race for governor. According to the survey results, Sen. Braun would lead Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and venture capitalist Eric Doden, 47-10-5 percent, respectively.

States

North Carolina: Redistricting Case Could be Moot — The North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case that was heard before the US Supreme Court yesterday is a potential landmark case, but some North Carolina state political sources suggest the arguments may go by the proverbial wayside. The high court will rule before the end of June, but before that occurs, the new North Carolina legislature may draft new redistricting plans for the US House, state Senate, and state House of Representatives. Since a court map is only an interim plan, the legislature can replace it with a permanent draw at any time.

If this occurs as described, and new maps are enacted –- remember, in North Carolina, the governor has no veto power over redistricting legislation -– it is possible that the action could render the case before the Supreme Court as moot. If so, the issue of whether the Constitution views state legislatures as solely independent when handling redistricting could well go unanswered.

Sen. Warnock Wins Re-Election; Florida Sen. Scott to Seek Re-Election; Nebraska Gov. Ricketts to Apply for Senate Appointment; SCOTUS Hears Redistricting Case Today

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) wins re-election. | Facebook photo

By Jim Ellis — Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022

Senate

Georgia: Sen. Warnock Wins Re-Election — As predicted, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated GOP former professional football player Herschel Walker (R) last night in the Senate runoff, but the approximate 51-49 percent contest split was much closer than many prognosticators expected. The Warnock win gives the Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate, a net gain of one seat from the present 50-50 makeup. The outright majority will give the party at least one more vote than the Republicans on every Senate committee, and make it easier for the leadership to confirm administration appointments, including federal judges.

Turnout is one of the bigger stories, as the projected 3.6 million people voting in the runoff election is actually 200,000-plus individuals greater than those voting in the regular Senate contest back on Nov. 8. It is unprecedented for a runoff to draw more voters than a regular election, but such has apparently happened in this Peach State election.

Yesterday’s secondary election was necessitated under Georgia election law because neither Warnock nor Walker received majority support in November. Unlike in most states, an absolute majority is required to win a Georgia general election.

Sen. Warnock has now secured a full six-years in the Senate after winning the 2020 special election to fill the balance of then-Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) final term. Sen. Isakson resigned at the end of 2019 due to health reasons and then later passed away. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) then appointed businesswoman Kelly Loeffler (R) to fill the post until the 2020 special election of which Rev. Warnock won in that cycle’s subsequent runoff.

Florida: Sen. Rick Scott (R) to Seek Re-Election — Quelling political speculation that he would run for president in 2024, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) early this week made clear his intentions for the next election. Saying in a response to a question from radio host and national commentator Hugh Hewitt, Sen. Scott said, “I have no plans to run for president and I have a 100 percent plan to run for the US Senate [in 2024]. I’m running for re-election for senator from the great state of Florida.”

Speculation is also surfacing that outgoing US Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) may challenge Sen. Scott. In a response to a reporter’s inquiry, Rep. Murphy didn’t close the door on such an option and pointed out that Florida is still not as “red” as the electorate voted in the 2022 election. Of the 11 Republican in-cycle seats for 2024, the Florida campaign could be the most competitive, but even here Sen. Scott must be rated a heavy early favorite for re-election.

Nebraska: Gov. Ricketts Will Apply for Senate Appointment — Nebraska junior Sen. Ben Sasse (R) has now set Jan. 8, 2023, as the date he will officially resign his elected position in order to become president of the University of Florida. Governor-elect Jim Pillen (R), who will appoint a replacement for Sen. Sasse, has asked individuals who want to be considered for the Senate appointment to apply before Dec. 23. One person who confirmed he will apply is outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R).

In the open Republican gubernatorial primary back in May, Gov. Ricketts became actively involved and endorsed Pillen, a University of Nebraska Regent, over eight other Republican candidates including Trump endorsed businessman and rancher Charles Herbster. Pillen would win the Republican primary with four percentage-point margin and claimed the general election with just under 60 percent of the vote.

Though others will apply for the soon-to-be vacant Senate position, Gov. Ricketts is viewed as the clear favorite for the early January appointment. The new senator then will stand for election in 2024 to fill the unexpired portion of Sen. Sasse’s final term. The seat is next in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2026.

States

North Carolina: SCOTUS Hears Redistricting Case Today — The North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case that contains challenges to judicial authority over the redistricting process is before the US Supreme Court later today. North Carolina is challenging, among other points in the lawsuit, whether judges have the power to invalidate redistricting maps, since the US Constitution specifically gives re-mapping power to the state legislatures. While it is doubtful that the judicial panel will rule against judicial power, the legitimacy of the redistricting commissions that several states have adopted could be in question.

Along with the previously heard Alabama racial gerrymandering case, the Supreme Court is apparently prepared to issue landmark rulings on Voting Rights Act interpretation for the first time in decades. The rulings should end the inconsistent interpretations we have seen coming from various state judicial systems. Rulings on both the Alabama and North Carolina cases will be issued before the end of next June.

Democrats Move Biden Schedule Forward; Warnock Leads in GA Runoff Polling; Duarte Wins Last Outstanding House Race, GOP Majority at 222 Seats; Manchin Not Ruling Out Gov Run

By Jim Ellis — Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022

President

Primaries: Democrats Move Biden Schedule Forward — The DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee approved President Biden’s suggested alterations for the 2024 primary schedule. This means that South Carolina moves into the first primary position on Feb. 3, 2024. Following on Feb. 6 will be New Hampshire and Nevada. The newcomers to the early group are Georgia, slated for Feb. 13, and Michigan two weeks later on Feb. 27.

Republicans say they will maintain the traditional schedule kicking off with the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary with Nevada and South Carolina following. The New Hampshire Democrats are objecting to being moved from the first primary position and state law allows them to ignore a political party’s rule. Though this is the first definitive step to nomination rules changes, more details must be finalized before any schedule takes effect.

Senate

Georgia: Sen. Warnock Leading in Last Runoff Polling — The Georgia Senate runoff election is today, and the latest two surveys give incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) a slight lead. Emerson College (polling for The Hill newspaper; Nov. 28-30; 880 likely Georgia runoff election voters; multiple sampling techniques) finds Sen. Warnock clinging to a 51-49 percent edge over former professional football player Herschel Walker (R). Survey USA (polling for television station WXIA in Atlanta; Nov. 26-30; 1,214 Georgia runoff election likely voters; online) sees a similar 50-47 percent spread in the senator’s favor.

Early voting looks even more favorable than the polling. Democratic early voting is up 5.7 percentage points when compared with the 2020 Georgia runoff election. Conversely, Republicans are down 7.3 percent based upon the previous statewide post-election runoff. Heading into today’s vote, Sen. Warnock is the clear favorite.

House

CA-13: John Duarte (R) Wins Last Outstanding Race — The final unresolved House race was called over the weekend, and California Republican John Duarte, an agriculture-related businessman, was projected a 584-vote winner over Democratic state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). The win gives the Republicans a 222-213 House majority and provides GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) a much-needed vote for House Speaker, this one from a neighboring district, part of which touches his own CA-20 CD.

The race is officially over even though final numbers have not yet been recorded. Gray conceded the race to Duarte and, since California has no automatic recount law, the outcome is final.

Governor

West Virginia: Sen. Manchin Not Ruling Out Gov Run — Sen. Joe Manchin (D) said over the weekend that he has not made up his mind whether to seek re-election, run for governor, or retire. Sen. Manchin said he will make a decision about the 2024 election after the first of next year.

The interesting part of his statement is acknowledging that another run for governor is an option on his political table. Before winning a special 2010 US Senate election, Manchin served as governor from January 2005 to November of 2010, having won two elections to the state’s top elected post. Early polling suggests he would not fare well in a Senate race against Gov. Jim Justice (R), who is ineligible to seek a third term, and Rep. Alex Mooney (R-Charles Town). This makes West Virginia the top early 2024 election cycle Republican conversion opportunity.

Biden Suggests Primary Schedule; Maine’s King Prepping for Re-Election Campaign; A Budding GOP Primary Challenge in VA-9; Louisiana’s Gov Race Hinges on Kennedy

By Jim Ellis — Monday, Dec. 5, 2022

President

President Joe Biden

Primaries: President Biden Suggests Schedule — Considering that the White House will have a major say as to how the new Democratic presidential nomination rules are changed, President Biden shared his idea for a new primary schedule. He suggests South Carolina, the state that launched his own victory through the previous nomination process, be the first state to vote. He then says that New Hampshire and Nevada, voting on the same day, should be scheduled a week after the Palmetto State with Georgia and Michigan following on successive Tuesdays. This idea would increase the number of places voting before Super Tuesday from four to five.

Senate

Maine: Sen. Angus King (I) Preparing for Re-Election Campaign — Sen. Angus King (I), who has previously overcome both skin and prostate cancer, is reportedly planning to seek re-election in 2024 when he will be 80 years old. The senator, who previously served two terms as Maine’s governor, was first elected to his federal office in 2012. At the time, it appeared the 2018 campaign would be his last, but retiring at the end of the succeeding Congress does not now look to be the senator’s ultimate career path.

Sen. King runs as an Independent on the Maine ballot but caucuses with the Democrats, as does New England neighboring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Should he indeed run in 2024, it will be the first time Sen. King will experience Maine’s Ranked Choice Voting system. Considering this situation, the veteran office holder may draw stronger opposition than in his past election campaigns.

House

VA-9: A Budding GOP Primary Challenge — Virginia Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), who was just re-elected to a seventh term with 73.5 percent of the vote, may be drawing a 2024 Republican primary challenge. Freshman state Delegate Marie March (R-Floyd) made a statement late last week saying that Rep. Griffith has “been in Congress too long,” and hinted that she might challenge him in the next GOP primary.

Rep. Griffith was first elected in 2010, defeating long-time incumbent Rick Boucher (D) and has had little in the way of competition ever since. He’s averaged 72.4 percent in his six re-election victories and has not yet faced a Republican primary challenge.

Governor

Louisiana: Yielding to Sen. Kennedy — Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder (R) announced late last week that he will run for governor next year unless, he said, Sen. John Kennedy (R) enters the jungle primary field. If Kennedy does run, Schroder will opt to seek re-election. Sen. Kennedy, fresh from a 62 percent jungle ballot election victory in November that saw him winning a second US Senate term outright, is expected to enter the governor’s race and be considered the clear front runner. The senator says he will make a decision after the first of the year. Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

McCarthy’s Math

By Jim Ellis — Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022

House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

Leadership — The announcement from several Republicans saying they will not vote for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the election for Speaker of the House even after he was overwhelmingly chosen the party nominee for the position makes the mathematics of his achieving a majority vote a bit tricky. The leadership election will be decided when the new members are sworn into office on Jan. 3. 

The sudden and unfortunate passing of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA) reduces the number of members taking the oath of office on commencement day to 434. Even so, McCarthy would still need 218 votes if all are present and voting. Therefore, the McEachin death does not reduce McCarthy’s majority quota, but it could become a factor if a “present” vote strategy were to come into play.

Another complicating factor is the outcome of the lone outstanding House race, the CA-13 contest in the Fresno Valley. Republican candidate John Duarte, a local farmer and agri-businessman, predicted that he will eventually win the election once officials finally count all the ballots. 

Duarte supports his prediction by pointing out that most of the uncounted ballots are from Fresno and San Joaquin Counties in areas where the Republican performed better than his opponent, state Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced). Currently, the district-wide count is stalled with Duarte clinging to a 593-vote lead. If the remaining votes from the five counties perform like the counted ballots, Duarte would win by approximately 483 votes. There is, however, no guarantee that the uncounted ballots will fall in similar fashion, thus the race is still up for grabs.

A Duarte win, however, would increase the Republican Conference size to 222, and that extra vote would be important for the McCarthy-Speaker equation. It is also possible that recounts and legal challenges to individual ballots will hold up the certification of a winner in that race for an undetermined amount of time, thus possibly delaying a new member from being sworn in until after the Speaker vote. If this were to happen, the total House membership would drop to 433, and McCarthy would then need 217 votes to establish a majority as opposed to 218.

His bigger problem is that six Republican members have publicly stated they either will not support him in the floor vote or questioned his leadership ability. According to press reports, the four saying they will not support McCarthy on the floor are Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Bob Good (R-VA), and Ralph Norman (R-SC). The pair publicly questioning his leadership ability are Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) and Chip Roy (R-TX). 
 
There has been some talk that members voting “present” would actually reduce the number of votes to determine a voting majority. While this theory would be open to legal or parliamentary challenge, for the purposes of this example let’s see if such a strategy would work.

If the six members either committing to vote against McCarthy, or possibly doing so, were to simply vote present, and the majority number is truly reduced, then McCarthy would look to have 216 votes as compared to the Democratic likely Speaker candidate, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ (D-NY), 212 votes. Within this scenario, the “present” strategy would work because the aggregate counted votes would be 428, thus making the majority number 215.

If those six members, or any others, would vote for an individual other than McCarthy when answering the initial House roll call, then the result would be costly. Under this vote count, McCarthy would be one short of securing the majority.

The other idea being bandied about is having some of McCarthy’s supporters vote “present” in order to reduce the number necessary for securing a majority vote. This would be a very dangerous strategy because his margin is so small that he would come precariously close of dropping below Mr. Jeffries’ 212 votes, assuming the Democratic Conference votes in lock-step. Even one miscount on the roll call vote could elect Jeffries if this idea were attempted.

If McCarthy has 216 votes and the six opposition Republicans were to all vote for other individuals, then the supporter “present” strategy simply wouldn’t work because the McCarthy-committed vote would drop commensurately with the number needed for a majority.

Therefore, the only true path for McCarthy to win the Speakership race is to, first, ensure that no other fall-off is coming from the Republican ranks; second, that no other GOP candidate emerges with potentially more strength; third, that no hybrid coalition forms with the Democrats; and fourth, reaching an arrangement with his six Republican opponents to at least vote “present” in order to allow for a smaller majority number.