Category Archives: House

House Retirement No. 36

Four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced that he will not seek re-election next year.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 10, 2019 — The 36th US House seat to come open lies in Raleigh, North Carolina, as four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) announced late Friday that he will not seek re-election next year. He is in the rare situation of being forced from his position because of an unfavorable redistricting draw during the fifth election of the political decade.

We can expect to see a number of such redistricting-related instances occur throughout the country in the next election cycle, but to be still fighting redistricting legal battles, as they are in North Carolina, with a new census and apportionment directly upon us is unprecedented.

Rep. Holding says he is now not seeking re-election because of what he describes as the “terrible” manner in which the boundaries of his 2nd District have been reconstructed. The 2nd moves from a 53-44 percent Trump district to one that voted 60-36 percent for Hillary Clinton.

Though the Republican legislators reconfigured the map, the partisan division will increase the Democratic number by at least two seats, which directly affects the Raleigh and Greensboro and Winston-Salem areas. The court directive forced a criterion change upon the legislature, which responded with the new map.

The post-2020 election delegation will likely feature an 8R-5D split, and Democrats sued arguing they should have more in a state whose electorate typically splits close to 50/50. The three-judge panel that originally struck down the previous GOP map unanimously approved this latest mapping effort, so the new plan will stand for the 2020 elections.

This new congressional map significantly changes the North Carolina political picture. The Holding seat is now a Democratic primary fight, and the early leader is former state Rep. Deborah Ross, who challenged Sen. Richard Burr (R) in 2016 and held him to a hard fought 51-45 percent victory.

The other Republican incumbent left without a political home is three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro), and it is clear he will not seek re-election in the new 6th District. He is reportedly weighing his options for other political opportunities. Rep. Walker averaged 58.1 percent of the vote in his three congressional victories while the newly constructed NC-6 constituency supported Hillary in a 59-38 percent result.

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Georgia Rep. Tom Graves to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome) to retire

Dec. 9, 2019 — It appears we have again entered into a potentially sustained period of multiple retirement announcements, which is not particularly surprising, since members are beginning to face candidate filing deadlines in their individual states.

This week has been active. After Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) pled in federal court to a campaign finance violation and will soon resign, and Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) announced Wednesday that he won’ seek another term, six-term Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger/Rome) followed suit in releasing his social media message late last week declaring that the current term will be his last.

Though still young, Graves indicated to his local media that the reason for his retirement is to explore new avenues with his family now that his offspring have reached adulthood. He was in no political danger, having won his last election with 76 percent of the vote in a district that went 75-22 percent for President Trump in 2016.

The Graves decision moves the open-seat count to 35, with 24 coming from the Republican side of the aisle versus only 11 from the majority Democrats.

Georgia’s 14th District sits in the far northwest corner of the state, encompassing the relatively narrow area that borders both Tennessee and Alabama. The seat contains 11 counties and part of another, with the population relatively evenly spread throughout small towns and rural areas. The city of Rome, with a population of just over 36,000 people, is the district’s largest municipality, though Paulding County with just under 160,000 residents spread through small towns west of Marietta is the district’s most sizable population entity.

Since GA-14 has such a strong Republican voting history, the battle to replace Rep. Graves will occur in the GOP primary. We can expect a crowded field to soon form. The primary will assuredly yield the top two finishers advancing to a run-off, because it is a virtual certainty that no one will reach majority support in the first vote.

The state legislative district overlay suggests that the state Senate may produce the most viable contenders. The congressional district occupies five state Senate seats, all Republican, and parts of 15 state House districts, just one of which a Democrat represents. In the latter districts, no state House seat exceeds even 10 percent of the congressional district constituency.

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House 2020 Overview

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 3, 2019 — Now that two states have already completed their congressional candidate filing (Alabama and Arkansas) and five more are scheduled for December including Illinois, which closed yesterday, it is time to begin to ascertain where US House politics might reasonably stand right now.

California (Dec. 6), Texas (Dec. 9), Ohio (Dec. 11), and North Carolina (Dec. 20 – on hold due to court order), are the other states with candidate deadlines this month. At the end of December, the seven filed states including North Carolina, would account for 129 congressional district candidate slates.

Currently, the party division yields four vacant House seats — two from each party. Of the 431 seats with representation, Democrats hold 233 and Republicans have 197, along with one Independent — Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/ Grand Rapids), who left the Republican Party earlier this year.

Comparing the current ratings for each district against where the seats stood a year before the 2018 election finds that 82 political situations have changed ratings with most moving away from the Republican column and toward the Democrats, but not in all cases.

Currently, 75 districts fall into either the Toss-up, Lean Democrat, or Lean Republican categories. This assumes that the four vacancies — CA-25 (Katie Hill-D), MD-7 (Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R) — all remain with their current party in upcoming special elections.

Adding another assumption concerning the House outlook involves the newly adopted court-ordered North Carolina congressional map, the third of this decade. On its surface, these latest district boundaries would net the Democrats at least two seats, those that Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) currently represent.

Both parties are lodging new legal challenges to the map, and the state’s Dec. 20 candidate filing deadline is on hold for the US House candidates until the legal situation is resolved. For the purposes of this analysis, the new North Carolina map is inserted into the national overlay, thus increasing the Democratic conference by two seats.

Of the 75 lean and toss-up seats, 36 are currently in the Democratic column and 38 lie in Republican hands. The remaining seat belongs to Independent Rep. Amash. Looking at how the seats might break right now, it appears that 33 are rated as Lean Democratic with 30 categorized as Lean Republican. The remaining dozen, including the Amash seat, are considered toss-ups.

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NY-2: Trump for Congress?

NOTE: Happy Thanksgiving. Our Political Updates will return on Monday, Dec. 2.

By Jim Ellis

Lara Trump

Nov. 27, 2019 — Action about who the Republicans might nominate to succeed retiring New York Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) is beginning to simmer, especially since the Club for Growth released a poll of the district’s GOP electorate late last week.

The Club contracted with WPA Intelligence to test Lara Trump, wife of Eric Trump and daughter-in-law of President Trump. Rumors had been surfacing that she might be contemplating running in the 2nd District; hence, the interest in gauging what type of support she might have for such a race. WPAi paired Lara with former congressman, Rick Lazio, who is considering becoming a candidate, in a hypothetical Republican primary. According to their data (Nov. 17-18; 400 likely NY-2 Republican primary voters), Lara Trump would lead Lazio by a whopping 53-19 percent.

The result is not particularly surprising because Donald Trump has a solid Republican base in the district. The WPAi survey finds the president’s favorability ratio at 78:19 percent within this GOP primary voter sample.

In response to the poll, Lara told Breitbart News that she’s, “ … incredibly honored by this showing of support from my fellow New Yorkers. While I would never close the door on anything in the future, right now I am focused on winning a second term for President Trump.” Lara serves as an advisor to the president’s re-election campaign.

So far, Islip Town Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt and Suffolk County Elections Commissioner Nick LaLota are announced Republican candidates. State Assemblyman Mike LiPetri (R-Massapequa) has formed a congressional exploratory committee and is expected to join the race. Early last week, former Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, and County Legislature Minority Leader Tom Cilmi both said they would not run for the seat.

The Democrats appear to be coalescing around Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon, who is a retired Army officer. Gordon had announced a challenge campaign against Rep. King and raised just under $188,000 through the Sept. 30 deadline. The 2018 Democratic nominee, Liuba Grechen Shirley, who held the congressman to a surprisingly close 53-47 percent victory, has already announced that she will not enter the 2020 open seat campaign.

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Filings & Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 22, 2019 — As we approach the end of this year, two states have already held their 2020 candidate filings and six more will do so in December. This sets the stage for eight statewide primaries in March, four from large states. Mississippi, with a March 10 primary, set its filing deadline for Jan. 10.

In total, and in addition to the presidential campaign, filings during this period in these states have occurred or will occur for six Senate races and 151 US House districts. All five Super Tuesday primary states will host US Senate contests and hold an aggregate of 113 congressional districts.

Alabama and Arkansas have already filed, and the major stories coming from these places as already covered were former US Attorney General and senator, Jeff Sessions, again declaring for his former position and the lone Democrat challenging Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) dropping out of the race just two hours after he had filed. In the pair of states, two House incumbents, Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) and Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro), are totally unopposed in their 2020 campaigns.

The other states heading for December candidate filing deadlines are Illinois on Dec. 2; California, Dec. 6; Texas, Dec. 9; and Ohio, Dec. 11. North Carolina is currently scheduled for Dec. 20, but it is conceivable that the pending redistricting lawsuits could potentially postpone the state primary and thus the qualifying candidate deadline.

The five Super Tuesday (March 3) primary states are: Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas.

Alabama has the first Senate primary and that will likely determine which two of the six major Republican candidates move into an April 14 run-off election. Currently, polling suggests that former Sen. Sessions and Auburn University retired head football coach Tommy Tuberville would advance to a run-off. Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), and former state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 US Senate special election nominee Roy Moore round out the group of main competitors. The eventual nominee will face Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the November campaign.

Two open seat congressional races, both in South Alabama, will almost assuredly go to run-offs, though the eventual Republican nominee in the respective districts will be heavily favored to replace Reps. Byrne and Martha Roby (R-Montgomery), who is retiring.

The March 3 primary is relatively inconsequential in Arkansas since it appears the general election is relatively set. Since the Democrats have no candidate in the Senate race, the party structure will meet to nominate a consensus candidate for a ballot slot in the general election.

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Alabama & Arkansas: The Filings

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 15, 2019 — Candidate filing for the 2020 election cycle is now closed in two states, Alabama and Arkansas, and several individuals unexpectedly became candidates.

First, in the presidential race, not only did former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg file in Alabama, as was widely reported last week, but he also submitted papers for the Arkansas presidential primary. This doesn’t necessarily mean he will enter the national race, but it certainly gives him the option to become an active candidate.

Reports are now surfacing, however, that Bloomberg will not file for the New Hampshire presidential primary at today’s deadline. This move is even more surprising in light of his filing in Alabama and Arkansas. Polling must tell him he would be shut out in the Granite State and, with only a total of 24 first-ballot delegates, skipping the state would not greatly affect his potential delegate acquisition count.

Another surprise came in Arkansas where, at least for now, first-term Sen. Tom Cotton (R) has no Democratic opponent. When filing closed, Fayetteville Democrat and former congressional candidate Josh Mahony complied with the deadline requirements and said in his exit statement said he had been working the state for six months in order to lay groundwork for his statewide campaign. Before the day ended, however, he decided to rescind his candidacy.

Mahony said a family issue keeps him from running, but the Arkansas Republican Party had also just filed an ethics complaint against him, so it is possible that this development also had some influence on his decision to leave the race. In any event, Mahony is no longer a candidate even though he would have been unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

At this point, the Democrats have no Senate candidate, but state law will allow the party members to meet and choose a new nominee to oppose Sen. Cotton. Either way, Cotton’s re-election prospects appear completely sound.

Of course, the Alabama Senate race, now that former US attorney general and Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions, is returning in an attempt to re-capture his previous position, has drawn the most political attention. The entire Republican field for the office includes the aforementioned Sessions, Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, ex-state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 special Senate nominee Roy Moore, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and businessman Stanley Adair.

The other somewhat surprising filing came in Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District, where state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) will run to oppose three-term Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock). The 2nd District, which is comprised of the Little Rock metropolitan area, is the most politically marginal of Arkansas’ four congressional districts.

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Rep. Peter King to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 13, 2019 — Over the Veterans holiday weekend, long-time New York Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford/ Islip) announced that he will not seek re-election to a 15th term next year, ending what will be 28 years of service in the US House.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY-2)

Prior to winning the South Shore Long Island seat in 1992, King served as the Nassau County comptroller for 11 years. In 1977, he was elected to the Hempstead Town Council, his first political campaign.

King, a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, represents New York’s 2nd District, bordering the Great South Bay, which travels along the Sunrise Highway from Bayport through Babylon all the way to Seaford. The district leans Republican. President Trump carried the seat 53-44 percent in 2016, though both Mitt Romney and John McCain fell several percentage points short of winning here.

Through his 14 elections, King has averaged 55.4 percent of the vote through different configurations of the district. In 2018, the congressman defeated business consultant Liuba Gretchen Shirley, 53.1–46.9 percent, in a race where his opponent raised just under $2 million. For his part, the congressman spent almost $3.2 million.

There had been retirement speculation surrounding the 75-year-old King, for several months. Earlier it had been assumed that the congressman’s daughter, Erin King Sweeney, would run to succeed him when he eventually left office but apparently that will not happen. In September, Sweeney announced that she would not seek re-election to her current position as the Republican leader on the Hempstead Town Council because her husband accepted a position in North Carolina and the family is moving.

While 2018 Democratic nominee Shirley has not announced that she is returning for a re-match, Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon (D) did declare her candidacy. Additionally, Trump impeachment activist Max Sax is in the Democratic field. Now that the 2nd District has become an open seat we can expect to see stronger Democrats come forward to make the race. A crowded Republican primary is also forecast.

The New York candidate filing deadline is not until April 2, so Democratic and Republican Party leaders have sufficient time to fully develop a credible group of candidates. The New York state primary is June 23. We can expect two competitive primaries and a tight general election. The early rating for this new open seat is Lean Republican.

King now becomes the 32nd sitting House member who will not seek another term in office. Within this group, more than two-thirds, or 22, are currently Republican-held. Ten are from the Democratic side of the political aisle.

As reported earlier, four of the seats are vacant and headed to a special vote before the next general. The elections for resigned Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) and the late Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-MD) seats have already been scheduled. The governors of New York and California must still schedule special votes to replace resigned Reps. Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Batavia) and Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale).