Category Archives: Governor

NJ, VA Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2021 — The two states with odd-numbered year elections in 2021 are holding their partisan primaries today, though one Old Dominion party has already nominated its statewide candidates. Voters in New Jersey and Virginia will choose nominees for governor and other elected statewide offices and for seats in their respective state legislatures.

Virginia Republicans, in a unique “drive-thru” convention, chose their gubernatorial nominee, Glenn Youngkin, on May 8. Nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general were also selected through the ranked choice voting system to narrow the field to a point where one candidate receives majority support after several rounds of counting.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is unopposed in the Democratic primary and former state assemblyman, Jack Ciattarelli, (pronounced: Chit-a-relli) is favored to capture the GOP nod after receiving official local Republican party endorsements in 17 of the state’s 21 counties. He faces businessman and frequent candidate Hirsch Singh, former Franklin mayor, Brian Levine, and pastor Phil Rizzo.

Virginia Democrats are expected to again back former governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as their party nominee. He enjoys wide polling leads over former Prince William County state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), scandal-tainted Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and state Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas).

Virginia is the only state in the Union that limits its governors to one four-year term but does not prevent former incumbents from seeking the office again as McAuliffe is doing. Many southern states historically installed a one-term limit for their governors, but Virginia remains the only place that maintains the practice. McAuliffe served from 2013 through 2017 before yielding to current incumbent Ralph Northam (D).

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Another Florida Twist

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)

May 20, 2021 — Last week, a story from the Axios news site reported that Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) had made the decision to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R), and that Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) would run for governor. Those suppositions proved premature to say the least.

Quickly, Murphy’s spokespeople denied that the congresswoman had made any final 2022 political decision. Simultaneously, Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), a former Republican governor, announced that he would run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination with the goal of challenging incumbent Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) next year. Both Rep. Demings and state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried were then expected to soon follow suit and oppose Rep. Crist for the party nomination.

Politico broke a story Tuesday indicating that Rep. Demings had either changed her mind about running for governor, or the aforementioned Axios story drew the wrong conclusion. Certain supporters, including 2014 gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink (D), are now saying that Demings is a virtual certainty to challenge Sen. Rubio.

Since the 2012 election, Florida Democrats have won only one statewide race, and their record includes two gut wrenching losses of less than a percentage point after being predicted to win both times, so the state party now appears in disarray.

Several things could now be at work if assuming the Axios story about Murphy running for the Senate and Demings for governor was true at the time of publication.

First, Rep. Murphy has secured herself in the 7th District, and it is plausible that her seat will get more Democratic post-redistricting. It is very possible that she simply reconsidered giving up a relatively safe House seat in order to enter a statewide race against Sen. Rubio where she would be a considerable underdog.

Second, the Crist entry could be the wild card catalyst that influenced Rep. Demings to change course. Seeing an expensive Democratic gubernatorial primary developing against both Crist and Fried with no guarantee of victory, and then having to pivot into a race after the late August primary against incumbent Gov. DeSantis would, like Rep. Murphy, mean risking a safe House seat for a very uncertain political future.

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Another Close Michigan Race

By Jim Ellis

Detroit Police Chief James Craig

May 18, 2021 — As it is becoming clear that retiring Detroit Police Chief James Craig (R) is preparing to challenge Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) next year, Target Insyght, polling for the Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS), tested the potential general election pairing in a recent study. The results portend another tight Wolverine State campaign.

The TI poll (May 9-11; 800 registered Michigan voters, live interview) finds Gov. Whitmer leading Chief Craig by a six-point, 48-42 percent, spread. More importantly, the survey identified key areas of weakness for the governor, ones that could potentially allow a GOP contender to construct a reasonable path to victory. Chief Craig has not yet announced his candidacy but is expected to do so once he officially retires from the police force on June 1.

Where Chief Craig may have a significant advantage in such a race is his potential ability to draw more votes from the African American community particularly in heavily Democratic Detroit.

While President Biden averaged 79.1 percent of the vote in Congressional Districts 13 and 14 that encompass the city, the Target Insyght poll finds Gov. Whitmer pulling only 64 percent among black voters, while the outgoing police chief attracts 36 percent. In Detroit, 78.3 percent of the population is African American according to the latest publicly available Census Bureau estimates (July 2019).

Gov. Whitmer’s bigger weakness, however, lies in the area of jobs and rebuilding the state’s economy. According to this issue segmentation, voters would favor Chief Craig over Gov. Whitmer by a whopping 63-30 percent margin.

John James, the African American Republican who has run highly competitive campaigns in the last two consecutive Michigan Senate races, was also tested but he doesn’t perform as well as Chief Craig in a general election pairing. While the governor tops Chief Craig by six points, as mentioned above, James trails by 10 percentage points, 49-39 percent.

In the Republican primary, however, it is James who would have a clear advantage. If he and Chief Craig oppose each other for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination, the former man would begin the race with a 36-21 percent advantage in the primary according to this particular survey.

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Examining California
Gov. Newsom’s Vulnerabilities

By Jim Ellis

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

May 13, 2021 — The University of California at Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies released another of its periodic polls this week, and while it finds Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) surviving the upcoming recall election it also identifies areas of underlying weakness.

According to the survey (April 29-May 5; 10,289 registered California voters with questions asked in English and Spanish, online), Gov. Newsom would win the impending recall vote as 49 percent of the respondents said they would vote to retain him in office and 36 percent support removal. Regarding his job approval and performance on certain issues, however, the poll identifies what could possibly become an opponent’s path to victory.

The Cal-Berkeley result is very similar to another poll conducted within the same time period. Survey USA went into the field during the April 30 – May 2 time segment and interviewed 750 California registered voters of which 642 were identified as likely to vote in the gubernatorial recall election. S-USA found the sampling universe broke 47-36 percent in favor of Gov. Newsom remaining in office, almost identical to Cal-Berkeley’s tally from their much larger online sample.

Cal-Berkeley delved deeper into how the respondent sample was viewing the governor’s job performance and his standing within the electorate, and its results suggest that a focused opposition campaign could yield a close outcome.

Perhaps most troubling to the Newsom strategy team is the question that tested enthusiasm within the electorate. While Democrats were breaking 75-8 percent to retain the governor, the enthusiasm metric showed that only 36 percent of them have a high interest in the election. Another 30 percent fell into a moderate interest level, and 34 percent of the self-identified Democratic voter base said they had little or no interest.

Republicans, on the other hand, registered a 75 percent high interest level, suggesting that their turnout for the eventual election will be much greater. Though Democrats hold a large 46-24 percent party registration advantage, the interest level suggests the eventual election result could fall into a closer range. Among GOP voters, the governor would be ousted in a whopping 85-8 percent margin.

Those registering under the No Party Preference category, who account for another 24 percent of the California voting universe, would retain the governor with a 45-33 percent margin, while the six percent who identify with a minor party break 48-29 percent for removal.

Overall, Gov. Newsom’s job performance improved from Cal-Berkeley’s late January poll and stands at a 52:43 percent positive to negative ratio. In January, the performance ratio was an upside-down 46:48 percent. This is largely due to improvement regarding his handling of the Coronavirus issue, as 45 percent rate his performance as excellent or good, while 35 percent say poor or very poor. Another 16 percent gave him a fair rating, which on this poll seems to indicate a moderate support level as opposed to leaning in a negative direction as some other pollsters characterize the term.

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Youngkin Wins VA GOP Nomination

By Jim Ellis

Glenn Youngkin officially captured the Virginia Republican gubernatorial nomination earlier this week.

May 12, 2021 — Glenn Youngkin officially captured the Virginia Republican gubernatorial nomination earlier this week on the second day of ranked choice vote counting.

Early in the sixth tabulation round the other remaining participant from the original field of seven, businessman Pete Snyder, conceded the nomination when state Sen. Amanda Chase’s (R-Midlothian) second choice votes began to be dispersed. Chase was eliminated from further competition after the fifth round, finishing third overall.

Youngkin led in all the voting rounds, and even as early as the end of round two little evidence surfaced to suggest anything would occur through the ranking process to deny him winning the gubernatorial nomination.

The international investment executive, who, like Snyder, spent several million dollars to advertise around the state on electronic media for a closed convention with a universe of 53,000-plus delegates, will very likely face former governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe once the traditional Democratic primary concludes on June 8.

Understanding the voting trends from the past several elections, McAuliffe, assuming he is nominated in the party primary where he has consistently appeared as the prohibitive favorite, will begin the general election campaign with a major advantage.

Though more than 53,000 people had registered as delegates, the actual turnout was considerably less. Due to the manner in which votes are being reported and the weighting formula governing the ballots, the raw number of people attending the drive-thru formatted convention is not obvious. Only 12,557 weighted votes were reported.

Using a ranked choice voting system where individuals tiered their gubernatorial choices from 1-7, the participants’ tallies were then weighted by unit. According to the official party statement, each unit has a fixed number of delegate votes. The formula to determine each candidate’s weighted vote is the number of ballots received divided by the total ballots cast and then multiplied by the number of assigned delegate votes to the particular unit.

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