Category Archives: House

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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New Jersey Files

By Jim Ellis

New Jersey congressional districts

April 3, 2020 — In the election two years ago, Democrats nearly swept all 12 of the Garden State’s congressional districts leaving only veteran Rep. Chris Smith (R-Hamilton) standing, a man originally elected in 1980. With this cumulative result, New Jersey became one of the lynchpins of the House Democratic sweep that yielded a net gain of 40 seats nationally.

The Democratic “blue wave” included defeating two sitting Republican incumbents, then-Reps. Tom MacArthur and Leonard Lance, and converting two more open seats, those from which Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Rodney Frelinghuysen retired. Now, the GOP strives to make a comeback.

New Jersey congressional candidates completed their filings earlier this week, thus giving us an introduction as to who will become party nominees in the June 2 primary. The state is again shaping up as one of the most important within the US House election prism.

Since the election, former Democratic state senator Jeff Van Drew, who was elected to replace retiring Rep. LoBiondo in the Atlantic City/Cape May CD, decided to switch parties largely because of the way the Democratic leadership ostracized him for opposing President Trump’s impeachment.

Additionally, the state Republican leadership has maneuvered well, convincing two credible candidates willing to oppose strong Republicans to turn their attention toward Democratic incumbents in nearby districts. This puts more seats in play and unifies the minority party behind all of the viable candidates they are putting forth.

Looking ahead, Reps. Donald Norcross (D-Camden City), Frank Pallone (D-Long Branch/Perth Amboy), Albio Sires (D-West New York), Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), Donald Payne Jr. (D-Newark), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing Township/Trenton) are secure for re-election.

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Reviewing the House Vacancies

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2020 — With the COVID-19 virus playing havoc with virtually every aspect of American life, including elections, how are the House vacant seats being affected?

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/Buncombe County) resigned from Congress Monday night to become White House Chief of Staff, which brings the total number of vacancies to a half-dozen. Special elections are scheduled in four of those, with three to be decided on or before May 12.

Originally, the special elections in Maryland and New York were supposed to be the first to go to the voters, but the COVID-19 precautions changed the date of the New York election and the voting system in Maryland. Former Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who easily won the crowded Democratic primary on Feb. 7, will win the special general on April 28 but the process now becomes all-mail. The Republican nominee is event planner Ken Klacik, but this Baltimore city district and surrounding area will easily remain in Democratic hands. We can expect Mfume to break 75 percent of the vote.

The former congressman was elected to five terms in the House beginning with the 1986 election. He resigned to become president and CEO of the NAACP in 1996. Mfume served in that position until running unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2006, losing the Democratic primary to then-congressman, Ben Cardin. Then-state Delegate Elijah Cummings replaced Mfume in the House at that time and served until his death in October. Now, ironically, Mfume returns to replace the late Rep. Cummings.

California’s 25th District, which begins in the state’s Simi Valley and stretches to the Palmdale area, potentially features the hottest of the current special elections. Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned the seat because of a sexual scandal leading to a multi-candidate concurrent special and regular election.

Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith topped the field on March 3, and she advances to the special election runoff on May 12 with Iraq War fighter pilot Mike Garcia (R). The latter individual placed ahead of, and eliminated, former US Rep. Steve Knight (R) who was attempting a political comeback after losing to Hill in 2018. Polling is projecting a tight finish. Regardless of what happens on May 12, both Smith and Garcia are advancing to the regular general election to battle for the full term beginning in 2021. The May 12 winner is immediately sworn into the House and serves the remaining part of the current congressional session.

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Collins Way Up in Georgia Senate Race

Georgia Rep. Doug Collins – surging ahead?

By Jim Ellis

March 31, 2020 — A new Battleground Connect tracking poll of the Georgia Senate special election race finds Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) beginning to pull away from the jungle primary field. According to their one-night flash poll (March 24; 1,025 likely Georgia jungle primary voters held concurrently with the Nov. 3 general election), Collins has opened up a 16-point advantage over the top Democrat and expands to a full 20-point margin over appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R). The Battleground Connect survey finds Collins recording 34 percent support followed by businessman Matt Lieberman (D), son of former Connecticut senator and 2000 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, with 18 percent and Sen. Loeffler only posting 14 percent preference. The remaining candidates, Baptist minister Raphael Warnock (D) and former US attorney Ed Tarver (D) record 13 and 5 percent, respectively.

This latest track is one of four March polls that Battleground conducted. All had 1,025 respondent sampling universes and each were one-night surveys. In their first poll, conducted on March 7, Rep. Collins’ margin over Sen. Loeffler was 29-20 percent, with Democrats Lieberman, Warnock, and Tarver trailing consecutively with 16, 12, and 5 percentage point support. Since that time, there has been a net 11-point drop in support for Loeffler vis-à-vis her position against Rep. Collins.

Additionally, Sen. Loeffler’s personal favorability index has also dropped precipitously throughout the survey series. Originally, the March 7 poll found that 38.5 percent of the Georgia electorate had a positive opinion of the appointed senator while virtually the same number held a negative impression (37.8 percent). The latest March 24 poll produced a much different finding.

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Runoff Review – Part II

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

By Jim Ellis

March 26, 2020 — With Gov. Greg Abbott (R) moving the Texas runoff election date, it has drastically changed the short-term Lone Star State political scene. At the end of last week, Abbott transferred the post-primary runoff election date from May 26 to July 14 in consideration of COVID-19 virus precautions.

Statewide, the US Senate Democratic primary is headed to a runoff election, as well as 15 different congressional campaigns.

In the Senate race, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar, who held Rep. John Carter (R-Georgetown) to a 51-48 percent re-election victory in 2018, placed first in the Democratic primary with 22.4 percent of the vote, but a long way from the 50 percent plateau a candidate needs to claim a party nomination. She will face state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) who slipped into second place by just over a percentage point in the 12-candidate field. Sen. Royce scored 14.5 percent statewide.

The eventual nominee faces three-term Sen. John Cornyn (R), who easily secured re-nomination in his Republican primary (76 percent over four opponents). The longer runoff cycle should typically help the second place finisher, since the individual has more time to change the campaign’s flow. In this case, however, the Democratic nominee, who already starts as a severe underdog to Sen. Cornyn, would lose valuable general election time with the later runoff, thus making the task of overcoming the incumbent even more formidable.

Of the 15 House runoffs, nine are viable to some degree. The six that are not lie in districts that are safe for one party or the other. For example, it matters little which Democrat wins the 13th District runoff (Trump ’16: 79.9 percent), or who eventually becomes the victorious Republican in the 18th CD secondary vote (Clinton ’16: 76.5 percent).

Rep. Van Taylor’s (R-Plano) north Texas seat is typically thought of as safely Republican, but his 54 percent win percentage in 2018 was considerably below the average GOP vote. Two attorneys, Sean McCaffity and Lulu Seikaly will now do battle until July 14 to see who faces Rep. Taylor in his first re-election bid. The two were virtually tied in the Democratic primary, 44.5 – 43.7 percent, with the slight edge going to McCaffity. Rep. Taylor will be the decided favorite in November.

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