Category Archives: House

The Manchin Compromise

By Jim Ellis

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D)

June 18, 2021 — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) offered a detailed compromise Wednesday to the S.1/HR-1 package that will be debated and likely voted upon in the Senate next week.

The controversial legislation would nationalize voting procedures, and Sen. Manchin has said he would not support a final package unless Republican votes could be recruited to break a filibuster. According to news sources, no Republican is currently supportive.

Sen. Manchin released what he terms is a compromise measure, (Voting Legislation For the People Act Compromise), and presumably a substitute for S.1, or “For the People Act,” as it is formally entitled. His proposal includes 26 points in addition to five sub-points.

The chances of the Democratic leadership accepting the Manchin compromise on face value are virtually nil because his measure does not include some of the key planks found in the S.1 language.

For the purposes of this column, let’s look at a few of what could be the more controversial pieces of the Manchin offering both from a political and constitutional perspective.

• Point 3 states that the measure would “ban gerrymandering and use computer models” for redistricting. Accepting this would be difficult since there is no common definition of “gerrymandering.”

Additionally, though computer models are already used in every state to draw districts, Sen. Manchin may be referring to the Iowa process in which the legislature allows the committee staff to draw maps through a specific computer model without regard to an incumbent’s residence but based solely on geographic and some demographic characteristics.

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It’s Down to a Dozen in SC-7

By Jim Ellis

South Carolina state Rep. William Bailey (R-Myrtle Beach)

June 17, 2021 — South Carolina state Rep. William Bailey (R-Myrtle Beach), who became the first individual to announce a Republican primary challenge to Rep. Tom Rice (R-Myrtle Beach) has become the first candidate to withdraw, with his announcement this past Tuesday. Bailey initially entered the race immediately after the congressman voted to impeach former President Trump in relation to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Rep. Bailey indicated that there are ‘enough conservatives in the race to give Mr. Rice a strong challenge,’ and says he is leaving the congressional race to seek re-election to his state House position.

After Bailey’s departure, and including Rep. Rice, there are a dozen announced candidates for the Republican congressional primary in a 7th District that currently occupies South Carolina’s northeastern sector and includes the cities of Myrtle Beach and Conway. In the two Trump presidential elections, the district’s voters strongly supported the former president and with very consistent margins: 58-39 percent in 2016 and 59-40 percent last November.

Normally, a large field of opponents would help an incumbent, but maybe not under the South Carolina election system. The state, like many others in the south, adopts a secondary runoff election process, meaning the winning candidate must secure an absolute majority. If no one can achieve the mark in the primary election, the top two vote-getters advance to a secondary election.

What makes the Palmetto State’s system different is that the runoff cycle lasts only two weeks. Typically, South Carolina holds its primaries in mid-June with the associated runoffs following in the latter part of the month.

Therefore, an incumbent under attack doesn’t have much time to recover before the next election commences. This calendar likely enhances the most common pattern of incumbents generally losing a runoff election if they are forced into a secondary vote.

The large number of contenders notwithstanding, and without Rep. Bailey in the field, the two most prominent challengers appear to be Horry County School Board chairman Ken Richardson and former Myrtle Beach mayor, Mark McBride, though the latter man was defeated in a runoff election for a third term. McBride was also beaten badly in a 2020 special election for the state House of Representatives.

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NM-1: A Pattern?

By Jim Ellis

Albuquerque, New Mexico-anchored NM-1 Congressional District

June 4, 2021 — Several media reports — typified by an MSNBC website analysis article that Steve Benen authored after Tuesday’s New Mexico special election — are trying to make the point that Melanie Stansbury’s landslide victory is a potential benchmark for future Democratic victories. Such a conclusion is a stretch.

The two-pronged premise is that Stansbury was so strong that she even ran ahead of President Biden’s performance in the district, and that the Republican campaign’s emphasis on the crime problem and the national effort to defund the police proved a political failure.

While Stansbury, a two-term state representative, scored a 60-36 percent win in the Albuquerque anchored congressional district that former Rep. Deb Haaland (D) resigned to become US Interior Secretary, her performance is not unusual. In fact, her vote total was less than two points above the mean average Democratic congressional percentage since the party converted the seat from the Republicans back in 2008.

To the argument that Stansbury’s victory margin was larger than President Biden’s 60-37 percent spread against then-President Trump, and it was only one percentage point better, it is not unusual for a House campaign to outperform the top of the ticket. In most instances, the congressional winner is better known than his or her competitor, has greater funding and outside support, and is consistently in position to overwhelm the opposition. Such is rarely the case in a national presidential campaign or in a major statewide contest for senator or governor.

The crime issue was certainly a focal point of Republican nominee Mark Moores, an Albuquerque state senator. The national party, however, did very little to support Moores, virtually conceding the race from the outset based upon the voting history here for more than a decade.

For an underdog candidate in Moores position, emphasizing the crime issue, on paper, made sense as a point of attack. Albuquerque, according to FBI statistics has the ninth worst violent crime statistics in the country, meaning 1,352 crimes per 100,000 residents according to the latest available figures (2019). To put this number in perspective, Chicago, which has drawn much national media attention for its high murder rate, ranks 31st on the same scale, at 943 crimes per 100,000 city residents.

Perhaps one reason the crime issue did not propel the Moores candidacy is there was no serious effort to defund the Albuquerque Police Department, nor is there the sharp racial tension that is present in some of the cities where we saw serious problems along with a local movement to reorder policing.

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Stansbury Wins New Mexico Special

By Jim Ellis

New Mexico state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D), winner of Tuesday’s special election.

June 3, 2021 — The New Mexico special election went as expected Tuesday, as state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque) defeated state Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) by a 60-36 percent count, which is consistent with the partisan early vote turnout.

The overall participation factor exceeded 131,000 voters, or 28.2 percent of the district’s registered voter universe, which is relatively high for a special election. It appears that over 70 percent of the people participating in the electoral contest cast an early ballot.

Stansbury, twice elected to the state House of Representatives, was victorious in the special Democratic district convention whose delegates were empowered with choosing a party nominee to replace resigned Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque). Haaland vacated the House upon being confirmed as US Interior Secretary in the Biden cabinet.

The Stansbury congressional victory margin came from population-dominant Bernalillo County, where more than 90 percent of the CD-1 residents live. Stansbury captured 61 percent of the vote here. In the smaller rural counties, Moores took three of four, but the aggregate vote total from each of those entities was individually less than 2,500 cast ballots.

The Democratic mean average in the seat since partisan conversion in 2008 is 58.2 percent, so Stansbury ran about two points above the benchmark. The state’s current governor, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, represented the 1st District for three terms and scored the single-highest Democratic election percentage during the 13-year post-conversion period. She tallied 65.1 percent in 2016, the same election in which Hillary Clinton posted a 52-35 percent CD-1 result and 48-40 percent statewide.

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NM-1 Special Election Tuesday

New Mexico state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D)

By Jim Ellis

June 2, 2021 — The latest in the series of special elections to fill US House vacancies was held yesterday, and the race has an obvious favorite.

On the ballot: state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque); state Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque); ex-Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, a former Republican who is running as an Independent; and Libertarian Party nominee Chris Manning.

The major parties nominated their candidates in special convention soon after incumbent Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) resigned to accept her appointment as Interior Secretary in President Biden’s cabinet.

Rep. Stansbury prevailed in a close multi-candidate Democratic convention, ultimately defeating state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Albuquerque) in a final round of delegate voting. Many believed winning the Democratic convention was tantamount to claiming the special election. Sen. Moores was an easy winner on the Republican side.

All indications pointed to a Stansbury victory, which is what played out last evening. The only recent publicly released poll before yesterday’s election, one that RRH Elections conducted (May 18-21; 555 likely NM-1 voters, interactive voice response system), found the Democratic nominee holding a 49-33 percent lead over Moores.

Secondly, the district has moved sharply to the left over the past decade, as the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections suggest. In the ’16 campaign, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump here, 52-35 percent. This past November, the Biden margin over ex-President Trump soared to 60-37 percent. The last Republican to represent the 1st District was former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque) who left the House in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for US Senate.

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