Category Archives: House

New GOP House Data

Sept. 24, 2015 — The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) commissioned Harper Polling (HP) to conduct surveys in presumed vulnerable incumbent districts for next year. In five of the situations where the Democrats have already recruited credible candidates, the preliminary data is favorable for the party office holders. Still, an eventual shift in the political tide could easily make these campaigns highly competitive for 2016.

The quintet of released polls feature representatives Martha McSally (R-AZ-2), Mike Bost (R-IL-12), Tim Walberg (R-MI-7), Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), and John Katko (R-NY-24).

Rep. McSally won the closest of all 2014 elections, a 167-vote victory over then-Tucson Democratic incumbent Ron Barber. Though the Harper data projects McSally with a discernible lead, there is little question that the succeeding 2016 contest will again be close.

All four of these polls were conducted during the Sept. 12-16 period. In Arizona’s 2nd District, 484 likely general election voters were sampled. The sample’s partisan division was a reflective 39 percent Democratic, 36 percent Republican, 25 percent Independent, which is an accurate depiction of the district as a whole. Today, HP finds Rep. McSally holding almost identical leads over her two Democratic opponents, both of whom have state legislative experience.

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Rep. Neugebauer to Retire;
Fiorina Shock Poll

Sept. 21, 2015 — West Texas Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock) became the fifth House member this month to announce his retirement, making public his decision yesterday. The congressman is not exercising his prerogative to seek an eighth term in the House, and will end his congressional career when the legislative session concludes at the beginning of 2017.

Neugebauer was first elected in a 2003 special election, replacing resigned-Rep. Larry Combest (R-Lubbock) who had left the House mid-term from his agriculture dominated district. Combest was the former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee when he retired from Congress.

Neugebauer, previously a Lubbock City Councilman, won a difficult special election in a very different 19th CD. At the time, both the cities of Lubbock and Midland were housed in the same CD. Neugebauer defeated Midland businessman Mike Conaway (R) in that election, but the latter would then win his current post-redistricting 11th District in 2004. Conaway is now the current House Agriculture Committee chairman.

The same redistricting plan that elected Conaway forced the just-elected Neugebauer into a district with 13-term Rep. Charlie Stenholm (D-Abilene). But, the new boundary configuration was not kind to the veteran Democrat, and the freshman handily defeated him 58-40 percent. Rep. Neugebauer would never again experience a close election.

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Florida Shock Poll;
Rep. Benishek to Retire

Sept. 17, 2015 — Tuesday, before last night’s Republican debate, Public Policy Polling released their new Florida survey (Sept. 11-14; 814 registered Florida voters; 377 likely Republican Florida primary voters; 368 likely Democratic Florida primary voters) and delivered what could be haunting news to both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio. The new ballot test result finds Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson leading the pair of home state politicians.

According to the PPP numbers, Trump takes 28 percent of the Florida Republican vote, followed by Dr. Carson who secures 17 percent. Trailing in third place with only 13 percent support from his home state GOP electorate is Bush, while Sen. Rubio drops to 10 percent. Though the percentages are not as dramatic as polls witnessed in Iowa and New Hampshire earlier in the week, Trump and Carson total 45 percent of the Sunshine State GOP vote. The third outsider candidate who is part of the trio never holding an elective office, Carly Fiorina, garners seven percent from this sampling universe, which again gives the never-electeds a majority (52 percent).

Looking at the delegate count, the Florida winner takes the primary season’s biggest prize because the state’s 99 Winner-Take-All delegates would be assigned to the person finishing first, regardless of the percentage attained.

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LaHood Wins; GOP Coalition Building

Sept. 14, 2015 — The last US House vacancy was officially filled last night when Illinois state Sen. Darin LaHood (R) easily won the special election in the Peoria-anchored district left vacant when then-Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL-18) resigned over improper expenses.

LaHood, the son of former representative and US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, had an easy run from the beginning of the special election cycle. With no strong opponents filing in either the Republican primary or for the general election, the Peoria state senator’s pre-candidate filing operation positioned him as a consensus candidate virtually from the beginning.

LaHood garnered 69 percent of the vote against educator Rob Mellon (D), sweeping an 18th District that travels around and among the cities of Peoria, Springfield, and Normal before encompassing the rural region to the Missouri border.

The final turnout of 50,747 voters is a little more than half the average total of what we generally see for a special congressional election. The fact that this low-key campaign produced virtually no competition left no doubt about the final conclusion, hence the low voter participation rate.

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Trump’s Pledge; Kline to Retire

Sept. 8, 2015 — A quiet political week ended with national Republican Party officials breathing a huge sigh of relief. Last week, Donald Trump agreed to sign the Republican National Committee pledge, committing candidates to eschew an independent candidacy if failing to win the party nomination. The language includes a statement of support for whoever becomes the GOP standard bearer. Obtaining Trump’s agreement was critical because his widely publicized contemplation about running in the general election was sure to doom the Republican nominee if he sought the presidency as an Independent.

But, it likely wasn’t the RNC chairman and leadership who carried the greatest influence with Trump. Rather, key GOP state chairmen who were beginning to draft legally binding pledges were the ones who made the difference.

The RNC pledge is not an authoritative document, and there isn’t much national party leaders can do if Trump decides to change his mind and reverse course later in the process. Ballot access, after all, is controlled by each individual state. But, state-based ballot qualifying measures and pledges do matter, and can be determinant about whether a candidate appears on a specific ballot.

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House: Looking Ahead

Aug. 17, 2015 — With the presidential contest dominating the political news coverage on a daily basis, very little attention has been paid to the US House races. Having what appears to be a secure Republican majority and a low number of open seats, the congressional campaigns will not likely bring much drama in 2016. The states under court-mandated mid-decade redistricting: Florida, Virginia, and possibly Texas, are unlikely to threaten the Republicans’ majority status either, though we could see several seats shift between the parties.

Coming off a 2014 election that sent 59 freshmen into the House and features 239 members who had served three full terms or less when they were sworn into the 114th Congress, the coming election promises much less turnover. In the 2012 election cycle, 62 seats were open followed by another 47 in last November’s vote. (The figures count districts in which an incumbent was defeated in a primary.) So far this year, we see 20 open seats (10R; 10D), not including two vacant districts that were filled in 2015 special elections.

According to our own Ellis Insight political forecast, 234 seats are safe (182), likely (36), or lean (16) Republican, while Democrats see 179 districts coming their way: 155 in the safe category, 16 likely landing in their column, and seven more leaning in their direction.

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Senate No-Go’s in Florida;
A California Democrat Fights Back

Aug. 3, 2015 — Three House members who had been very public about considering US Senate bids in their respective states, yesterday announced their decisions not to pursue a statewide campaign.

In what is becoming the most unpredictable of all Senate races, another surprise occurred in Florida.  Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Pensacola), who had been hiring staff, beginning to raise money, and even assembling an initial campaign schedule suddenly reversed course and will not join the growing field of Republican candidates.

Gainesville Rep. Ted Yoho (R), potentially a victim of the mid-decade, court-ordered congressional redistricting process, also reached the same conclusion about his own prospective Senate campaign.  So did California Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles).

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