Category Archives: House

Rep. Omar’s Interesting — And Challenging — Open Minnesota Primary Approaching on Aug. 11

“… We can translate our calls for justice into legislation …” — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5) in a recent campaign ad.

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 3, 2020 — In the congressional district where the George Floyd killing that ignited massive demonstrations around the country occurred, Minnesota’s controversial 5th District Congresswoman Ilhan Omar faces a serious Democratic primary challenger in the state’s Aug. 11 primary.

MN-5 Democratic challenger to Rep. Ilhan Omar, Antone Melton-Meaux

There has been political talk and news coverage that Rep. Omar, who has become a national political figure and one of the symbols of the Democratic Party’s leftward lurch, could be threatened in this primary election; there are some outward signs that attorney Antone Melton-Meaux has a chance to deny her re-nomination. On the other hand, the only available published poll finds the congresswoman well ahead suggesting there is little chance she would be defeated.

Melton-Meaux has attracted funding from around the country and raised a huge amount — $3.7 million. Since the district is geographically small and covers the city of Minneapolis with population slivers from two adjoining counties, Ramsey and Anoka, the local media market is very efficient for this contest, and he has been using it extensively. Since Minnesota has an open primary – a state that doesn’t register voters by political party meaning people can vote in the primary of their choice – there are few ad viewers who can’t vote in this primary. Therefore, such a system adds a type of wild-card flavor to the campaign.

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Committee Continuity – Part II

By Jim Ellis

July 29, 2020 — Completing our two-part series on changes we may see on some key House and Senate committee panels, today we look at the financial, commerce, and legal committees.


SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE & TRANSPORTATION

Republicans – Just three of the 14 majority Republicans are on the ballot this year, and two are in competitive races. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is in one of the most difficult campaigns in the country, while Alaska first-term incumbent Dan Sullivan (R) is a clear favorite to win in November despite early polling showing a potentially close race. There are no open seats among the Republican committee members.

Democrats – The Democrats have 12 members, and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell would replace chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) if her party assumes control in November.

The Dems also have just three of their Commerce Committee members in-cycle, and two are in competitive campaigns. First-term Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) faces a difficult challenge from manufacturing company owner John James (R). Sen. Peters appears secure in polling now, but the race is likely to close. The contest was in toss-up mode before the COVID shutdown. The other competitive race is a Democratic primary, as Sen. Ed Markey faces a difficult toss-up challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton).


HOUSE ENERGY & COMMERCE

Democrats – This is one of the most important committees in the House, and majority Democrats hold a 31-24 advantage. The Dems are looking at four vacancies as Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM-3) and Joe Kennedy III (D-MA-4) are running for the Senate, Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA-2) is retiring, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) was defeated in the June 23 New York primary. Just one majority member, Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-1), could face a competitive opponent. The Arizona primary is Aug. 4, and we will know more once we see who wins the Republican nomination.

Republicans – Six Republicans will leave the House at the end of this term, including Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR-2). Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT-AL) is running for governor, while Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL-15), Pete Olson (R-TX-22), Bill Flores (R-TX-17), and Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) are retiring. Michigan Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI-6) and Tim Walberg (R-MI-7) have credible opponents, and Shimkus, particularly, is embroiled in a tough race. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC-8) also has drawn an opponent of stature, but he remains a heavy favorite for re-election.
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Committee Continuity – Part I

By Jim Ellis

July 28, 2020 — Since elections always bring changes in the House and Senate committee structures, it is appropriate to begin looking at which key policy panels have the most known approaching changes.

In today’s Update, we begin to look at two anchor financial committees in each house and touch upon the internal political musical chairs. We look at the known committee vacancies due to retirement or primary defeat and identify the members who face competitive political situations. Obviously, a change in party control will fundamentally cause the greatest change, but we will look at those effects once we are closer to the election.


SENATE FINANCE

• Republicans – The GOP has a 15-13 majority on the Finance Committee under the leadership of veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Two Republicans are retiring, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), and one, Montana Sen. Steve Daines is in a highly competitive re-election contest against term-limited governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock (D). Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) will have a substantial amount of money spent against him, but he is considered a likely winner at this time. Of the committee’s 15 Republicans, only four are in-cycle this year.

• Democrats – This side is even more stable. None are retiring, and just one of their 13 members, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, is in-cycle. He is in a non-competitive situation. Should the Democrats gain the majority, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) would become the new Finance Committee chairman.


HOUSE WAYS & MEANS

• Democrats – On this important exclusive committee, the majority Democrats command a 25-17 advantage. They have only one sure vacancy, and that because of Rep. John Lewis’ (D-GA) recent death. Just two of the members have re-election races that can be considered competitive. Ironically, one of those is a Democratic primary challenge to committee chairman Richard Neal (D-MA-2).

Though it is unlikely that Neal will be denied re-nomination in the Massachusetts primary on Sept. 1, his opponent, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, has managed to raise over $840,000 for his campaign at the June 30 second quarter financial reporting deadline. If Neal is upset in the primary, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35) would be the next most senior member since Rep. Lewis has passed.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV-4) has already lost this seat once as an incumbent. He faces former state assemblyman Jim Marchant in a northern Las Vegas-anchored district that has yet to re-elect an incumbent since its creation in the 2011 redistricting plan. Rep. Horsford is the clear favorite, but the contest merits attention.

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An Inexplicable Michigan Poll

By Jim Ellis

Jen Richardson, Michigan’s MI-6 Democratic candidate for Congress

July 22, 2020 — Late last night, the Jen Richardson for Congress campaign in Michigan released a Gravis Marketing survey (July 16; 604 MI-6 likely general election voters via interactive voice response system) that defies credibility. According to Gravis, Democratic candidate Richardson leads 17-term incumbent Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) by 20 percentage points, 56-36 percent.

It is difficult to know even where to begin with the analysis. Let’s first point out that Richardson, who has raised just over $57,000 according to her June 30 Federal Election Commission disclosure report, is a big underdog in the Democratic primary let alone against Rep. Upton if paired in the general election.

Richardson is a teacher from Kalamazoo, running, as she describes, to be a voice for the middle class. Her Democratic opponent, however, in the intra-party election that will be decided Aug. 4, is three-term state Representative Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo), who is ineligible to seek re-election under the Michigan term limits law. In contrast to Richardson’s meager fundraising, Hoadley has attracted over $1.3 million and is the heavy favorite to face Rep. Upton in the fall campaign.

Perhaps the most glaring flaw in the Gravis poll – a survey firm that normally works for Republican candidates and often finds themselves posting better numbers for GOP contenders than other pollsters surveying the same races, e.g., Arizona president and Senate races at the end of June – is with their follow-up question.

Any established credibility ends totally when they report the generic ballot test question results, i.e., “if the election for Michigan District 6 were today and the candidates were a generic Democrat vs. a Republican, who would you vote for?” The same sampling universe that favors Richardson over Upton by 20 points chooses the generic Republican in a 46-43 percent margin.

Therefore, this poll’s results tell us that their interactive voice response system, which allows people to listen to an automated survey and then answer the questions by choosing a related number on their telephone, expects us to believe a conclusion that gives the Republican Party a three-point edge in this district, but their 34-year incumbent who has won 17 consecutive general elections in the southwestern Michigan region is 20 points behind someone who has little to no name identification?

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Georgia Dems Must Act Today

By Jim Ellis

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

July 20, 2020 — The death of veteran congressman and longtime civil rights activist, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), on Friday spurs Georgia’s unusual political succession law to take effect.

Since Mr. Lewis had already won re-nomination on June 9th, the Democratic Party must now name a replacement nominee and do so before 4:30 pm today. Georgia law gives a political party only one business day to name a replacement if, for whatever reason, a vacancy occurs post the nominating election.

In response, Democrats quickly assembled a committee of seven 5th District and statewide Democratic leaders who will send a recommended three to five candidates’ names to the Georgia Democratic Party’s state executive committee. The qualified members will then vote electronically from around the state in order to choose a new nominee by noon. The state party officials say they will communicate the Executive Committee’s choice to Georgia’s Secretary of State before 4 pm EST today.

According to the New York Times and other news outlets, three members of the screening committee are Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former state House Minority Leader and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, and Jason Carter, the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nominee, an ex-state senator, and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. They will quickly choose among the people who filed an online application for consideration.

Speculation as reported in an Atlanta Journal and Constitution article indicates that the favorite to emerge from this lightening quick party process is state Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta), who is also the chair of the Georgia Democratic Party. Other top contenders are former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens, and ex-state senator Vincent Fort.

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The Texas Lineup

By Jim Ellis

July 20, 2020 — One of the more important states that will determine the House November outcome is the Lone Star State of Texas. Now with 14 of their 15 congressional runoff elections decided, we have almost a full card of nominations set in the state’s 36 districts. Within Texas, 14 of the districts either feature a heightened level of competition or were decided on Tuesday after a hotly contested nomination cycle. The top Texas campaigns are cataloged below:


Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

DISTRICT 2
• Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) vs. Sima Ladjevardian (D)
2018 Result: Crenshaw, 53-45%
Ladjevardian is a former advisor to ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign. She won the Democratic nomination when her primary opponent chose to forfeit her position in the run-off election. Rep. Crenshaw is the clear favorite for November.


DISTRICT 3
• Rep. Van Taylor (R-Plano) vs. Lulu Seikaly (D)
2018 Result: Taylor, 54-44%
Seikaly won the Democratic runoff Tuesday with 61 percent of the vote. Rep. Taylor is the clear favorite for re-election and should improve upon his 2018 percentage.


DISTRICT 4
• Open Republican Nomination vs. Russell Foster (D)
2018 Result: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R), 76-23%
With Rep. Ratcliffe resigning to become Director of US Intelligence, Republican precinct committee members will meet in convention on Aug. 8 to choose a replacement nominee for the general election. At least 15 candidates are competing. The convention winner becomes a prohibitive favorite in the general election.


DISTRICT 7
• Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston) vs. Wesley Hunt (R)
2018 Result: Fletcher, 52.5–45.7%
Rep. Fletcher unseated veteran Rep. John Culberson (R) in 2018. Now she faces mortgage company executive and Iraq War veteran Wesley Hunt in what has traditionally been a Republican seat. Fletcher is the first Democrat to represent the 7th since 1966. This is a competitive race and Republicans eye the Hunt challenge as one of their better conversion opportunities in the country.
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Kansas Rep. Watkins’ Legal Woes

By Jim Ellis

July 16, 2020 — On Tuesday night, within an hour of him stepping onto a congressional debate stage in Kansas, freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) was indicted in state court. He is charged with interference with law enforcement, providing false information, voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting, and failing to notify the DMV of change of address according to the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office as reported in The Hill newspaper.

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

Immediately Rep. Watkins claimed the timing of the indictments was politically motivated, though Republican District Attorney Mike Kagay naturally denied that was the case. Still, being charged three weeks before the primary election on what should be considered a minor activity that is treated as a felony, i.e., where a person declares his residence and whether he voted in a different city council district race that didn’t comply with his stated residence, arguably opens the DA’s actions to legitimate criticism.

The base controversy surrounds Watkins registering to vote at a UPS postal center in 2018. The congressman claims he made a mistake on the voter registration form by listing his mailing address rather than his street address. In a 2019 Topeka municipal election, Watkins apparently voted in the district race that housed the UPS store location he used as his mailing address, which is different from that of his stated residence; hence, the vote fraud charge.

Questions surrounding Watkins’ residence have been raised since he returned to Kansas to run for the open 2nd District seat. He re-located to Topeka after spending time in the military and living for most of the past few years in Alaska where he participates in the annual Iditarod races.

Attacking the residence issue, Rep. Watkins’ principal Republican primary opponent, Kansas state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, was already running an ad about the congressman registering to vote at the UPS store and owning two homes in Alaska “but none in Topeka” before the indictments came down, and now such residency issues will likely be at the forefront of the remaining three weeks in the primary cycle.

The Watkins controversy, however, does not end with the freshman congressman. His father, Dr. Steve Watkins Sr., a local Topeka physician, is reportedly under a Federal Election Commission investigation for allegedly making contributions in the name of another that combined exceeded his maximum individual limits. According to a Politico news story, Dr. Watkins confirms he is under investigation for giving money to his family members and associates in order for them to contribute to the congressional campaign. This is would be a serious charge that normally carries prison time. To date, no charges have been filed against Dr. Watkins.

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