Category Archives: House

Money Report: The Specials

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2020 — The April 15 deadline for releasing the 1st Quarter 2020 campaign finance reports has come and gone, so we can now begin to assess where some of the key campaigns stand with regard to their fundraising, spending, and available resources. The races headed to special elections are best defined; hence, we begin our series with this group.

Three special general elections will culminate in May and June. On May 12, voters in California and Wisconsin will select new House members. The New York special election follows on June 23.

The California special vote to replace resigned Rep. Katie Hill (D) in the Los Angeles/Ventura County 25th District is between state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and Republican retired Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia.

This race looks to be about even across the board, so it may be an interesting precursor for the 2020 general elections. While Smith placed first in the special and regular primaries by relatively substantial margins (11 points in the special; 9 points in the regular), the combined Republican vote among the 13 candidates in the latter election’s jungle format was actually greater than the combined Democratic vote.

In terms of spending according to the just released numbers, Smith expended $1.529 million in the first set of elections as compared to Garcia’s $1.462 million. First quarter fundraising favors Garcia, $277,234 opposite Smith’s $258,972. Garcia also led in cash-on-hand at the end of March, $446,742 to $357,256. Each candidate can also expect at least $1 million coming into the district from party and outside organizations to aid their respective cause.

Regardless of what happens in the special election, both of these candidates have ballot position in the November general election to battle for the regular term beginning in 2021. The special election to fill the balance of the unexpired term is an all-mail exercise scheduled for May 12.

Also on May 12, northwestern Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District vacancy will be filled. In late August, five-term Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) resigned for family reasons and the special election to replace him is just about upon us. In the early April special primary, state senator Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) and Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker (D) advanced to the special general. The winner will serve the balance of the current term, and at least the future new member will file to compete in the regular election by the June 1 candidate filing deadline. The regular Wisconsin primary is scheduled for Aug. 11.

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Wisconsin: A Precursor?

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

By Jim Ellis

April 16, 2020 — The April 7th Badger State primary election results were announced this Monday, and former vice president Joe Biden easily defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 63-32 percent, but that’s not the real story behind the final statewide totals.

The bigger race was an ostensibly nonpartisan state Supreme Court judicial election between appointed incumbent Daniel Kelly and Dane County Circuit Court judge Jill Karofsky. Though the Republican and Democratic labels did not appear on the ballot, both parties were heavily invested. And, with much money being spent and both sides “all-in”, many believed it to be a precursor to this year’s presidential campaign in a state that could well become the deciding factor nationally.

Wisconsin Republicans needed the seat to maintain their 5-2 majority on the court, and Democrats wanted to narrow the margin to 4-3 in order to position themselves to take the majority in the next election; hence, this contest’s importance.

Controversy surrounded whether to even hold the election. Democratic insiders and activists were lobbying Gov. Tony Evers (D) to petition the legislature to delay the vote because of the Coronavirus situation. Evers delayed taking action, but finally went to the legislature a week before the vote. The Republican legislative leaders turned Evers down, and subsequent court decisions backed the decision to hold the election on schedule, virtually the only state that was moving forward with an in-person voting mode.

The announced results gave Judge Karofsky a big 55-45 percent upset win, and whether or not this is a precursor to the presidential result remains to be seen. Some believe the fact that the Republican leadership was insisting on moving forward with the election – with people believing they wanted the election as scheduled because they felt the quicker vote favored them – resulted in a voter backlash; hence, Karofsky’s large margin in what was projected to be a much closer electoral contest.

Democrats fought hard to postpone the election and increase the mail-in facet – and most believe they wanted such because they perceived it favored them – but clearly won the election even under the voting structure that the Republicans desired.

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House Opens – Toss-Up/Leans

By Jim Ellis

April 15, 2020 — The open-seat count has increased to 43, with 31 coming from the minority Republican column. The number of competitive opens, however, at this point in the cycle is likely just nine, as 34 of the incumbent-less seats fall into either the Safe/Likely Democratic (12) column or Safe/Likely Republican (22) category. Today, we look at the competitive open seats.

Toss-Up

• CA-25: The vacant Palmdale/Simi Valley seat heads to a special election on May 12 in north Los Angeles County. State Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and Republican retired Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia (R) advanced from the special primary into the stand-alone mail-in special general. Regardless of the outcome on May 12, these two candidates will advance into the November general election to determine who will represent the politically marginal district in the next Congress.
   The special election has moved from “Lean Democratic” into the “Toss-up” category as a result of recent polling that projects Garcia owning a small lead and because of the partisan turnout numbers in the regular primary. The latter statistic actually found more Republicans voting than Democrats.

• GA-7: In 2018, this Atlanta suburban seat featured the closest raw vote margin in the nation, as incumbent Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) defeated state legislative staff member Carolyn Bourdeaux by just 419 votes. This year, with Rep. Woodall retiring, Bourdeaux returns but must top five other Democratic candidates including a state senator, state representative, and former Fulton County commission chairman. Therefore, the May 19 Democratic primary, now moved to June 9, will be competitive and the possibility of advancing to an Aug. 11 runoff election certainly exists.
   Republicans may be more likely to move into a runoff than the Democrats, however. Seven candidates are in the field, only one of who is an elected official. More on this race as it develops, but we will probably see tight elections in both primaries and almost assuredly in the general election.

Lean Democratic

• IA-2: In a 2020 open-seat election in this southeastern Iowa congressional district, the Republican challenge is at least as difficult as opposing seven-term incumbent David Loebsack (D-Iowa City), who is now retiring. Democrats have already coalesced around ex-state senator Rita Hart (D-Wheatland), a soybean farmer and former educator from Clinton County.
   In 2018, Hart was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor on the ticket that businessman Fred Hubbell lost in a close race to Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). It is an unusual situation when an incumbent party must defend an open seat and winds up with an unopposed candidate in the primary, but that is what has occurred here.
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Wisconsin Unable to Report
Yesterday’s Election Results

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

April 8, 2020 — Voting throughout the Badger State occurred yesterday as ordered, but the tabulation results can’t be released until April 13 under a previous court ruling. Therefore, even though the election is complete, we won’t know if former vice president Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders carried the day until next Monday.

Dating back in this COVID-19-spurred election scheduling controversy, Democrats quickly began urging Gov. Tony Evers (D) to initiate action with the legislature to postpone the presidential and statewide primary as a part of the virus precautions.

Gov. Evers failed to act swiftly and did not go to the legislature until late last week when the majority Republican leadership turned down his request to postpone the April 7 vote. Democratic Party leaders then went to court in an attempt to extend the absentee ballot deadline and were successful until the Republicans asked the US Supreme Court to step in and negate the timeline ruling.

The lower court directive that included the prohibition on reporting vote totals was consistent with the ruling to extend the absentee ballot return deadline, otherwise vote totals would be made public before a large number of individuals had cast their ballots.

In the meantime, Gov. Evers declared a state of emergency and attempted to unilaterally move the election to June 9. Republicans argued that a governor has no such power even under an emergency order and petitioned to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court to strike down the Evers move.

On Monday, both the US and Wisconsin Supreme Courts ruled that the election would continue under its present schedule with original deadlines. Interestingly, however, the SCOTUS did not reverse the entire lower court ruling, and the section about directing county clerks not to report the election returns until April 13 remained intact. Thus, a quirk in the high court decision is now causing an unnecessary delay in seeing the outcome of the presidential primary and the state Supreme Court judicial election, that latter of which is actually the centerpiece of this election and at the heart of the scheduling controversy.

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Wisconsin Primary Moving Forward

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers

April 8, 2020 — Whether or not the Wisconsin primary would be held as scheduled took rulings from two Supreme Courts to decide, but we will see voting today throughout the Wolverine State.

The Democratic presidential primary is interesting since the Wisconsin electorate will be the first to vote post-March 17, and so far, becomes the only group to cast ballots during the COVID-19 lockdown situation. How this affects today’s vote in terms of turnout and candidate loyalty will be interesting to analyze.

Whether or not this election would even happen today has been a point of discussion for the past two weeks. Many Democratic strategists were lobbying Gov. Tony Evers, a fellow Democrat, for several days to move the election, but he was slow to act. Late last week, Gov. Evers decided to ask the legislature to pass a bill changing the election date, but the Republican majority leadership in the two chambers refused. Gov. Evers then made a last-ditch effort to declare a state of emergency and attempted to move the election.

The latter action drew the Republican leadership’s ire, and they immediately petitioned the state Supreme Court arguing that the governor has no power to arbitrarily move an election. They also went to the US Supreme Court attempting to get a lower-court ruling to extend the absentee ballot return deadline past the original election schedule countermanded.

At the heart of the election date becoming a political football was not the presidential race, but rather an important state Supreme Court election. Though the race is ostensibly nonpartisan, it is clear that Democrats believe chances for the candidate they are backing improve in a later election, while Republicans think the appointed incumbent they support fares better in a quicker, and presumably lower turnout contest.

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