Category Archives: House

First-Term Louisiana Gov. Edwards Forced to Run-Off Against Rispone

Republican challenger Eddie Rispone (R) and Louisiana Gov. John Bel-Edwards (D)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 15, 2019 — Saturday’s Louisiana statewide open primary election found first-term Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) failing to win re-election outright, meaning he and the second-place finisher, businessman Eddie Rispone (R), will advance to a Nov. 16 secondary vote.

The result suggests Edwards’ bid for re-election is in trouble since no governor in Louisiana history has won a secondary vote when forced into a run-off. The governor received 46.6 percent of the vote in the primary, an election where all candidates are placed on the same ballot irrespective of political party affiliation. If no contender receives majority support, as was the case on Saturday, the top two finishers advance to a second election.

Rispone (pronounced: ris-pony), a Baton Rouge-area developer who reportedly spent more than $11 million of his own money on the gubernatorial campaign, garnered 27.4 percent of the vote, more than 51,000 votes ahead of third place finisher and fellow Republican Ralph Abraham, a northern Louisiana US congressman. The remaining two-plus percentage points were spread among a minor Democrat, Republican, and Independent.

Combined, the Democratic vote, despite featuring the incumbent at the top of the ticket, reached only 47.4 percent, compared to the combined Republican percentage of 51.8. Upon being eliminated, Congressman Abraham, who did not have to risk his federal position to run for governor, immediately endorsed Rispone. The two appeared together at President Trump’s Louisiana rally on Friday night, at which point the president urged the attenders to vote for either GOP candidate.

Polling appeared to correctly predict the race. Going into the final campaign days, nine different pollsters through 11 separate polls surveyed the Louisiana electorate. Nine of the 11 predicted Edwards to finish below 50 percent. Eight of the surveys projected Rispone to finish second with Rep. Abraham close behind. The Trafalgar Group and Data for Progress firms predicted the final result almost exactly.

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New York’s Rep. Nita Lowey to Retire

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) is retiring.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 14, 2019 — House Appropriations Committee chair, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who was first elected in 1988 and is now 82 years old, announced that she will not seek re-election next year. She joins Reps. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) and Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Batavia) as New York members not seeking re-election. Rep. Collins has already resigned his seat.

Her released statement thanked the constituency for her long congressional career but did not cite any particular reason for the decision to leave the House when the 116th Congress adjourns.

Her 17th District, which includes all of Rockland and just over 40 percent of Westchester counties, will become the 25th open seat for this current election cycle. The congresswoman is now the sixth Democrat to either retire or run for another office.

Lowey’s retirement will ignite a pair of interesting political battles. Internally, and assuming the Democrats hold the House majority in the 2020 election, the congresswoman’s leaving potentially ignites a four-way succession contest for Appropriations Committee chair. Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven) immediately announced that she will be a candidate for chair once Lowey’s decision to leave the House became public.

In addition to DeLauro, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), who ranks sixth in House seniority and second among Democrats, is likely to seek the position as well as Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and David Price (D-NC).

Since it’s been so long for a Westchester County congressional seat to open – Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) represents the county’s other half and was also first elected in 1988 – we can expect a very crowded Democratic primary with many candidates vying to succeed Lowey.

The state senators who represent most of the 17th are David Carlucci (D-Ossining) and Pete Harckham (D-Peekskill). The seat touches 10 Assembly districts, seven of which Democrats represent versus three that Republicans control.

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The Politics of Scheduling

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2019 — Earlier, it was reported that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is going to re-schedule the special election to replace resigned Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau), and now we have more information.

At first glance, we see an instance where a state election law conflicts with a federal statute, which national government officials apparently brought to the governor’s attention after he made public the original voting schedule. Wisconsin special election law creates a 28-day period between special primary and general, while the federal MOVE Act, designed to provide some uniform structure for overseas and military voters stationed abroad, mandates at least 45 days be placed between elections.

The governor is reportedly looking at two scenarios, and both will move the special cycle to a much later time frame. Instead of Jan. 27, the original special general date (the special primary was slated for Dec. 30), the new general will likely either be concurrent with the April 7 presidential and statewide primary, or May 5. Due to the federal law requirements and the current state election calendar, the governor cannot schedule both the special primary and general to coincide with the already-set state election timetable.

Now for the politics: Wisconsin has a regular statewide election in the early part of the even-numbered year where judges and many local officials are elected in addition to other selected officeholder positions. In this particular April 7 election, the same day as the presidential primary, Republican state Supreme Court Judge Dan Kelly is running for a full 10-year term. Key Democratic leaders counseled the governor to schedule the election early so a large Republican turnout from a strong Republican congressional district did not hurt the party’s effort to unseat the high court judge.

On the other hand, Democratic turnout is likely to be very large on April 7 because voters are coming to participate in the presidential primary. Using this reasoning, the Democrats’ chances of upsetting the GOP in the special congressional election would be much greater even though the seat has performed well for the Republicans throughout this decade.

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Collins Resigns; Thornberry to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

Oct. 2, 2019 — Reportedly planning to plead guilty to an insider trading charge after being indicted last year, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) resigned his seat in the House, officially informing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Monday of his intentions.

Despite having an indictment hanging over his head, Rep. Collins won a close re-election in NY-27 — normally a safe Republican upstate district that occupies all or parts of eight counties in the region’s rural area east of Buffalo and south of Rochester.

The congressman defeated Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island town supervisor, by a razor-thin 49.1 – 48.8 percent spread, a margin of just 1,087 votes. Clearly the indictment played a major role in the outcome being so close, as Collins’ re-election percentages were an identical 67.2 percent in 2014 and 2016 after unseating then-Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in the 2012 general election.

Anticipating an open seat or a weakened Collins seeking re-nomination, several Republicans had already announced their intentions to run. Two state senators, Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Rob Ortt (R-Lockport), are already in the race as is attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato. The 2018 Democratic nominee, McMurray, is also a declared candidate.

It is likely that other Republicans will jump into either the special election, if it is called, or the regular election now that it is an open seat race. It is also likely that Democratic leaders will make sure that McMurray has a clean shot for re-nomination in order to make him as strong as possible against a different GOP nominee.

The New York state primary is scheduled for June 23. The eventual GOP nominee should begin as a favorite to hold the seat.
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CA-50: Issa Announces

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 30, 2019 — As expected, former California congressman, Darrell Issa (R), announced late last week that he will enter the state’s 50th District jungle primary against indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), but the candidate situation is getting so convoluted it is difficult to “tell the players without a scorecard.”

Attending the announcement event with Issa last week were two other announced contenders for the seat, former Escondido mayor, Sam Abed, and current El Cajon mayor, Bill Wells. As part of the Issa declaration, both men announced that they will not become official candidates when the filing period opens and instead endorsed the former congressman.

Earlier in the month, Temecula City councilman and former mayor, Matt Rahn, also said he was leaving the race after being the first to announce. He attributed his decision to the political situation surrounding Rep. Hunter and the other candidates and potential candidates as simply being too convoluted.

Within the past two weeks, state Sen. Brian Jones (R-Santee) announced that he will run for the congressional seat, thus adding even more confusion to the political picture. Because California’s state Senate seats are bigger than congressional districts, Jones already represents about 88 percent of the 50th CD. Prior to winning his Senate seat in 2018 (meaning he does not risk the position to run for Congress because he has a four-year term), Jones served his allotted three terms in the state assembly and two different tours on the Santee City council.

Two other Republicans also remain in the race. Carl DeMaio is a former San Diego City councilman, ex-mayoral and congressional candidate. He came close to being elected mayor in a special election when then-incumbent and former congressman, Bob Filner (D), was forced to resign over a sexual harassment scandal in 2013. He then ran for the 52nd CD in 2014 and lost 52-48 percent to incumbent Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego). He is now a local radio talk show host.

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Lone Star Status

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 27, 2019 — Though the 2020 election is more than a year away, we can already see that the state of Texas is going to be the key to determining whether the Republicans will have a chance to re-claim the House majority next year, or if Democrats will actually expand their conference size. The GOP needs to convert 18 seats to again become the majority party and holding their margins in Texas is a prerequisite if they are to make a comeback in 2020.

Counting primary challenges, we are looking at political action in 13 of the state’s 36 congressional districts. Five are open seats, all Republican held, and three are highly competitive. Two of those retiring, Reps. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) and Bill Flores (R-Bryan/Waco), leave seats that will easily remain in GOP hands.

The most vulnerable open Republicans district is the 23rd CD, which begins in the northwestern part of San Antonio and stretches all the way to El Paso. The district goes back and forth between the two parties, and at no time during this decade has the winning candidate broken 50.5 percent. Democratic nominee in 2018, Gina Ortiz Jones, came within 926 votes of unseating Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), and she now has a strong chance of becoming a consensus candidate for the open seat now that Hurd is retiring.

Republicans have no clear heir apparent to replace the retiring congressman, but it is likely that both eventual party nominees will start out with 48 percent of the vote. Expect another close contest here, but this is clearly the Democrats’ best Texas opportunity to convert another GOP seat.

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The Politics of Impeachment

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 26, 2019 — With the House beginning the impeachment inquiry, it is a good time to overlay the political map regarding those Democratic members who may find themselves in a difficult position as a result of this procedure.

In all, President Trump carried 31 congressional districts that elected a Democratic representative in 2018. In 16 of the 31 CDs, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also won. Additionally, the president carried 13 of the 31 districts by more than six percentage points.

To impeach, the Democratic leadership would need a minimum of 218 votes, and at the outset all but one will have to come from the majority side. Republican-turned-Independent Justin Amash (R-MI) left the GOP earlier in the year over the impeachment issue, so he is a likely “yes”, giving the leadership a little more cushion.

Turning back to the 2016 election, Trump carried Amash’s 3rd Congressional District with 51.6 – 42.2 percent victory margin, meaning this would likely be a tough vote for him, too, since he presumably will appear on the ballot as an Independent or minor party candidate.

In the end, however, should a vote proceed to the House floor, 15 of the 31 members listed below will more than likely have to vote for impeachment in order for the motion to carry.

With Trump being popular in their districts, 10 of the succeeding members with 2020 competition saw the President’s 2016 margin exceed six points. Three more with potential but as yet undeveloped competition, also saw Trump exceed a base six percentage point margin.

Therefore, one less than half of the following members will need to vote to impeach if the resolution is to move to the Senate.

ST-DIST INCUMBENT PARTY TRUMP % CLINTON % ROMNEY %
AZ-1 O’HALLERAN, TOM D 47.7 46.6 50.4
GA-6 McBATH, LUCY D 48.3 46.8 60.8
IA-1 FINKENAUER, ABBY D 48.7 45.2 42.5
IA-2 LOEBSACK, DAVID D 49.1 45.0 42.7
IA-3 AXNE, CINDY D 48.5 45.0 47.2
IA-3 AXNE, CINDY D 48.5 45.0 47.2
IL-14 UNDERWOOD, L. D 48.7 44.8 54.2
IL-17 BUSTOS, CHERI D 47.4 46.7 40.6
ME-2 GOLDEN, JARED D 51.4 41.1 44.4
MI-8 SLOTKIN, ELISSA D 50.6 43.9 51.1
MI-11 STEVENS, HALEY D 49.7 45.3 52.3
MN-7 PETERSON, COLLIN D 61.8 31.0 53.9
MN-2 CRAIG, ANGIE D 46.5 45.3 49.0
NH-1 PAPPAS, CHRIS D 48.2 46.6 48.6
NJ-2 VAN DREW, JEFF D 50.6 46.0 45.4
NJ-3 KIM, ANDY D 51.4 45.2 47.2
NJ-5 GOTTHEIMER, JOSH D 48.8 47.7 50.9
NJ-11 SHERRILL, MIKIE D 48.8 47.9 52.4
NM-2 TORRES SMALL, X. D 50.1 39.9 51.7
NV-3 LEE, SUSIE D 47.5 46.5 48.7
NY-11 ROSE, MAX D 53.6 43.8 47.3
NY-19 DELGADO, ANTONIO D 50.8 44.0 45.9
NY-22 BRINDISI, ANTHONY D 54.8 39.3 49.2
OK-5 HORN, KENDRA D 53.2 39.8 59.2
PA-8 CARTWRIGHT, MATT D 53.3 43.7 43.4
PA-17 LAMB, CONOR D 49.4 46.8 51.7
SC-1 CUNNINGHAM, JOE D 53.5 40.4 58.3
UT-4 McADAMS, BEN D 32.4 40.4 67.2
VA-2 LURIA, ELAINE D 48.8 45.4 50.5
VA-7 SPANBERGER, A. D 50.5 44.0 54.6

Red percentage figures: Denote districts Romney also carried