Category Archives: House

Open Seat News — Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 12, 2017 — With the new Congress scarcely a week old, we already know of eight open House districts. Assuming all of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees coming from the House are confirmed for their new positions, the action will lead to five mid-year special elections.

Additionally, one sitting member has been appointed California attorney general and is moving through the state confirmation process. Two more have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, and another just made a public pronouncement that he will not seek re-election in 2018.

Below is a re-cap of the first four (alphabetical) CDs. The remainder will follow in the succeeding Update.

CA-34: Thirteen-term Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) was appointed attorney general to replace newly elected Senator Kamala Harris (D). Becerra is currently going through the legislative confirmation process, which means a hearing and vote in both the state Assembly and Senate. Once the congressman is confirmed for his new position, assuredly before January ends, he will resign from the US House. When the vacancy becomes official, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will call a special election to occur between 126 and 140 days after his order. Both the special primary and general elections must occur within this time frame.

All candidates will participate in a jungle primary. If one candidate receives a majority vote, such individual is elected outright. If not, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the special general election. Already 14 candidates have announced for the seat (11 Democrats, two Republicans, and one Green Party contender). The most likely scenario would find two Democrats advancing to the special general, which will most likely occur at the end of May or in early June. The leading candidates appear to be Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) and former LA City Council aide Sarah Hernandez (D).

GA-6: When Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) is confirmed as Secretary of Health & Human Services and resigns his northern Georgia congressional seat, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) will call a special replacement election. Deal will have wide scheduling discretion, as his requirement is that the vote be no less than 30 days after his call. The process will be three-tiered, featuring partisan primaries, partisan run-offs if necessary, and a general election. Most likely, the entire cycle will end sometime in June.

Republicans will be heavily favored to hold the seat. Former GOP Secretary of State Karen Handel (unannounced) and Republican state Sen. Judson Hill (announced) appear to be the leading early contenders.

KS-4: Rep. Mike Pompeo’s (R-Wichita) selection as CIA Director will likely result in the special election with the shortest cycle calendar. Under Kansas law, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) will call the election for between 45 and 60 days after his pronouncement. If Pompeo resigns in February, the replacement election will then be held sometime in April.

The officially recognized political parties will determine for themselves how they will choose their nominees. Republicans have already announced that the 4th District Republican Committee of 126 voting members will vote for a special election nominee. Democratic leaders have not yet indicated how their process will unfold.

Once nominees are chosen, the candidates will participate in one election. Independents will have the right to petition onto the ballot, but the high signature qualification requirement will be over 17,000. Republicans are heavy favorites to hold the southeastern Kansas seat. Former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), state Treasurer Ron Estes (R), oil company executive and former congressional candidate Wink Hartman (R), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R) are among the high profile candidates being mentioned.

MT-AL: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) has been nominated as US Interior Secretary. Once the at-large seat becomes vacant, presumably sometime in February, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) will call the election for between 85 and 100 days post his declaration, meaning a vote sometime in late May or early June. The political parties will meet in convention to determine their nominees, so voters will go to the polls only once.

The special election could become competitive. Democrats hold two of Montana’s six statewide offices and before the November election actually controlled five. Already four Democrats and three Republicans have announced their candidacies. For the Democrats, three contenders are state representatives, including 2014 US Senate nominee Amanda Curtis, along with one businessman. The GOP side, so far, features two state senators, including Senate President Scott Sales, and one state representative. Democrats could turn to former state schools superintendent and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau. The latter lost to Rep. Zinke in November by a 56-41 percent count.

Johnson to Retire; A Cruz Opponent?

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2017 — Venerable Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX-3), one of the longest-held prisoners of war during the Vietnam War and a 32-year veteran of elective politics, has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018. Counting all of the Trump cabinet appointees from the House and the two members who have already announced gubernatorial campaigns, we already have seven open House seats in coming elections.

Johnson will be 88 years old at the time of the next regular election and would retire after serving 14 terms in the House and another three in the Texas House of Representatives. He had been re-elected to a fourth term in the legislature just before winning a special election to replace outgoing Rep. Steve Bartlett (R), who had resigned after winning election as Mayor of Dallas.

The 3rd District is a safe Republican seat, though it dipped a bit in the presidential race. Though Donald Trump carried this north Texas CD, he did so with only a 55-41 percent margin. Mitt Romney carried the same district, 64-34 percent, four years ago.

TX-3 lies north to northeast of Dallas and contains the cities of Plano, McKinney, Frisco, and Allen. The Sam Rayburn Tollway borders the district on the north end and the President George Bush Turnpike nears the southern boundary. All of the overlapping state legislators are Republican in addition to the congressional representation.

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Scanning the Country – Part V

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 10, 2017 — Completing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the final nine states — Tennessee through Wyoming — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Tennessee: Like many states in 2018, Tennessee features an open governor’s race and a US Senate campaign. Sen. Bob Corker (R) will either run for a third term, or possibly take a shot at the governor’s office. Rumors had arisen earlier that Sen. Corker was considering opting for a governor’s contest, but less is being said about that now. Assuming the senator seeks re-election, he will likely draw little in the way of credible opposition.

The main focus will be on the battle to replace term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam (R). At this point, Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) appears to be the only House member from either party looking at the governor’s race. Many state officials and legislators are jockeying for statewide position, however. Democrats are looking toward either former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who is also being mentioned as a possible challenger to Sen. Corker, or Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

All of the House incumbents appear secure, even Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg). After sex scandals with several of his former patients were revealed soon after his original election in 2010, DesJarlais survived two particularly tough Republican primary challenges. Still in office, the worst is clearly behind the now-four term congressman.

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Scanning the Country – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 9, 2017 — Continuing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the next nine states — North Carolina through South Dakota — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

North Carolina: After a heavy 2016 political cycle, Tar Heel State voters will get a political respite for the election two years hence. With no governor or US Senate race on the ballot, the 13 congressional races will lead the North Carolina ballot. After a mid-decade redistricting battle, the 10R-3D delegation split did not change.

Though Democrats won their lawsuit, they are now suing again because they still did not like the final results. Unless the districts again change, 12 of the 13 incumbents should be in strong re-election position. The lone exception will be Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-Charlotte), whose new district is 60 percent different than his former one and is politically marginal. He can be assured of tougher opposition in 2018, and a strong campaign being waged against him. Just barely winning his 2016 nomination battle in the new 9th district, he can potentially expect another Republican primary challenge, too.

North Dakota: With it now clear that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) will not be joining the Trump Administration, the North Dakota Senate race becomes a top national Republican target. At-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) is now acknowledging that he is at least considering a run for the Senate. He would likely be the national Republicans’ top choice as Heitkamp’s opponent. Should Cramer enter the Senate contest, the race would be rated a toss-up. His open House district would lead to a major convention nomination battle for Republicans, with the eventual GOP nominee being the favorite to hold the seat in the general election. Should Cramer not challenge Heitkamp he would be safe for re-election, yet the Senate race will still be highly competitive.

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Scanning the Country – Part III

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 6, 2017 — Continuing our five-part political journey around America, we now look at the next set of states — from Minnesota to New York — examining whether certain members from the various federal delegations are looking to retire and/or seek a different office.

Minnesota: After publicly contemplating an open race for governor, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) announced to the Minneapolis press that she will seek a third term next year. With an open governor’s race also on the ballot, it is doubtful that the senator will face any major opposition. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is barred from running for a third term. Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who survived a close re-election call in November (50.3/49.6 percent), is now purportedly looking at a statewide run. Republican Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), the unsuccessful 2012 gubernatorial nominee, and Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) are mentioned as potential GOP candidates.

Democrats will target freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury), another close winner in his southern Minneapolis suburban CD. Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) and Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), who also had competitive contests in northern districts where Donald Trump carried 62 and 54 percent of the respective vote, can expect active opponents in 2018. Retired Air Force officer Dave Hughes, scoring 47 percent against Rep. Peterson while not even spending $50,000, has already announced that he will run again.

Mississippi: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) is on the ballot next year and is not expected to face difficult competition. There is no 2018 governor’s race in Mississippi and the congressional delegation is secure. Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Biloxi) is perennially subject to a Republican primary challenge, but now in his fourth term the seat may be secure.

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