Category Archives: Primary

House Incumbent Primaries, Part II: Democrats

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 21, 2022 — Part II of our incumbents’ primary challenges report concentrates on the Democratic members who find themselves in serious nomination contests. (Note: Part I — the Republicans — was published Friday. Please scroll down to read.) Nine such situations are covered in this update, with one of them, the Texas race of veteran Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) to be decided on March 1.


GA-7: Dem Pairing

Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26

Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee)
Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta)
• Bourdeaux Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $2,005,771
• McBath Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $2,452,731
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: D+16
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 58.4% D

Republicans held the redistricting pen in Georgia and after losing two Atlanta metropolitan districts in consecutive elections, it was clear the GOP map drawers were going to take one back. That translated into loading Democrats from the previously Republican 6th District into the transitioning 7th CD.

Along with bringing more Democrats into the 7th, the 6th District incumbent, Rep. McBath, decided to join them. Instead of fighting for re-election in a new Republican 6th District (R+24), she moved south to challenge freshman Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in the party primary. As you can see from the cash-on-hand totals above, both incumbents are well-heeled financially, so a major campaign is underway.

Also in the Democratic field is state Rep. Donna McLeod (D-Lawrenceville), who points out that she is the only one of the three that actually lives in the 7th CD. Her campaign has been slow to begin, so it is doubtful that she will be much of a factor, and probably will not draw enough support to force the two congressional incumbents into a runoff. Therefore, it is likely that this pairing will be settled in the May 24 primary.

Among carryover constituents Rep. Bourdeaux has a big advantage in seeing a majority of her current 7th District constituency (57 percent) remaining in the new 7th. McBath, however, sees only 12.1 percent carryover from her 6th District. The larger Democratic influx came from Rep. Hank Johnson’s 4th CD, as 26 percent of his constituency was transferred to the new 7th.

On the other hand, the new 7th is overwhelmingly minority: 29.8 percent black, 21.3 percent Hispanic, and 15.8 percent Asian. Thus, the demographics could help Rep. McBath, who is African American. Her strength within the party’s leftward faction is also a benefit in a primary contest. With each incumbent showing similar strength levels, this will be an interesting race to watch on May 24.


GA-13: Rep. David Scott

Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26
• Scott Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $1,107,286
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: D+52
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 77.9% D

After only scoring 52.9 percent in the 2020 Democratic primary against three opponents, Rep. David Scott’s (D-Atlanta) 2022 race may be even more serious. Opposing him in this election are two candidates with an election track record, former state senator and 2017 Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort, and South Fulton City Councilman Mark Baker. The latter man bills himself as the “strongest progressive” in the race, but ex-Sen. Fort was well entrenched with the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Therefore, both opponents are attacking Rep. Scott from the left, which should help him split the opposition vote. Whether such a split will be enough to again allow him to capture majority support in the May 24 primary may be another question. Rep. Scott has long been attacked over not being further to the left on the ideological spectrum, which could again be a problem for him in a district that is overwhelmingly Democratic. Neither Baker nor Fort filed an FEC report at the end of the 2021, meaning they are behind on fundraising.

Rep. Scott must still be rated as the favorite to prevail, but this is another contest that will merit attention on May 24.


IL-6: Dem Pairing

Primary: June 28

Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove)
Rep. Marie Newman (D-La Grange)
• Casten Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $1,580,171
• Newman Cash-on-Hand (Dec. 31, 2021): $573,120
FiveThirtyEight Statistical Rating: D+6
Dave’s Redistricting App Historical Voting: 51.4% D

The Illinois race is the second of the three Democratic congressional pairings, and it features sophomore Rep. Casten and freshman Rep. Newman. This particular pairing came about because of complaints that a second Hispanic seat should be drawn in Chicago.

Fearing a loss in court, the Democratic legislative leadership acquiesced and drew a new open 3rd District that is 44 percent Hispanic. As a result, Rep. Newman’s home was placed in Rep. Chuy Garcia’s (D-Chicago) 4th District, but she pivoted to run in the 6th against Rep. Casten. Her move made sense because 43 percent of her constituency was drawn into the new 6th District versus just 24 percent coming from Rep. Casten’s current 6th District.

While Casten has a financial advantage and the support of most of the Chicago Democratic establishment, Rep. Newman is a darling of the far left and will likely attract the more ideological voter that tends to dominate primary voting in both parties.

The aspect of this race that attracts little attention is that the pairing winner is not necessarily home free in the general election. With the Illinois gerrymander drawing 14 Democratic seats of 17 total districts, some of the Dem seats are weak. The 6th, with a D+6 rating from the FiveThirtyEight data entity, is one of those. Therefore, a divisive primary could make the eventual Republican nominee even more viable in the general election.

This draw was not favorable to either Democratic incumbent, and we will see a spirited fight between now and the June 28 primary.
Continue reading

An Alabama Barnburner

By Jim Ellis

Alabama US Senate candidate Mike Durant

Feb. 16, 2022 — A trio of polls released in the past three weeks now suggest that any one of the top Alabama US Senate candidates can win the Republican nomination.

With Democrats basically conceding the general election because none of their four filed candidates can be considered a legitimate threat to score an upset win in November, the GOP nomination contest will decide who will succeed retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R).

The Alabama Republican Senate primary is now turning into a serious three-way affair, as former “Black Hawk Down” pilot Mike Durant apparently has become a legitimate contender. According to most recent three surveys, what originally looked to be a potential outright win for US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) on May 24 now appears surely headed for a June 21 secondary runoff election.

FarmPAC, the political arm of the Alabama Farmers Federation, this week began to publicize their Cherry Communications survey (Feb. 2-6; 600 likely Alabama Republican primary voters, live interview). The results post Congressman Brooks to a tight 34-29-24 percent lead over former Business Council of Alabama president and CEO Katie Britt, whom FarmPAC supports, and Durant, who now runs a defense engineering company headquartered in Alabama. In this survey, Durant again emerges as an additional contender with staying power who can clear a victory path.

As February began, Britt released her internal Deep Root Analytics survey (Jan. 29-31; 2,088 likely Alabama GOP primary voters; live interview, automated response calls and online) that gave her a slight 29-28-23 percent split over Brooks and Durant. Finally, WPA Intelligence, polling for the Club for Growth who supports Rep. Brooks (Jan. 25-27; 513 likely Alabama Republican primary voters live interview), saw the congressman holding a 35-30-25 percent edge over Durant, who vaulted into second place in this poll, and Britt.

All three candidates have strong positives and the financial wherewithal to remain competitive until voters first cast their ballots at the end of May. Two of the three, Brooks and Britt, can expect to benefit from active outside support, while Durant is already funding his effort to the tune of just over $4 million with likely more to come.

Britt is the leading fundraiser. At year’s end, she had raised just under $5 million, all from donors, and reported approximately $4.1 million cash-on-hand. Sen. Shelby has also committed to spending $5 million from his own campaign treasury as an independent expenditure to support Britt, his former chief of staff.

Rep. Brooks, never known as an aggressive fundraiser, had brought in $2.15 million at the end of 2021, with almost $2 million remaining in his treasury. The Club for Growth is likely to spend seven figures in their own independent expenditure to aid the congressman’s statewide effort.

As mentioned above, Durant has invested over $4 million into his effort according to his December year-end financial disclosure report, which represented virtually all of his campaign treasury. He has already spent well over $1 million on a media blitz that has successfully placed him in serious contention.

Continue reading

The Incumbent Pairings

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 30, 2021 — At this point in the national redistricting process, six sets of incumbents have been paired together, mostly in nomination battles, while an additional five incumbent combinations have been averted.

Over half the states have either completed the district re-drawing process or are well down the road to finishing. Illinois leads the nation with two sets of incumbent pairings, one set for each party. An additional four states have single pairings. A total of three Republican primary pairings are on the board, two feature Democratic incumbents, and one, in North Carolina, is a potential pairing with a member from each party.

Retirements have largely averted several more pairings. Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA), Tom Reed (R-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), and Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), not seeking re-election have likely prevented obvious pairings in their states.

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), deciding to seek re-election in the new 1st Congressional District, has avoided a Republican primary pairing with her freshman GOP colleague, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Below, we review the individual pairings.


GA-7:

• Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) vs. Rep. Lucy McBath (D)
Candidate Filing: March 11
Primary: May 24
Runoff: July 26

The surprise pairing of the early cycle occurs in the Atlanta suburbs. The Republican map drawers changed Rep. McBath’s 6th District back into a seat that favors the GOP, and instead of running an uphill campaign in a general election, McBath immediately announced that she would launch a primary challenge to freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in a politically marginal district that was made safely Democratic.

This will be one of the more interesting pairings. Rep. Bourdeaux represents most of the new 7th’s constituency, but Rep. McBath will likely be viewed as the stronger Democratic base candidate. Bourdeaux starts with an early edge, and with each candidate already approaching $2 million in their respective campaign accounts, this primary campaign will be an old fashioned political shoot out. The winner earns a virtual free ride in the general election.


IL-6:

• Rep. Sean Casten (D) vs. Rep. Marie Newman (D)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Democratic pairing is the result of the party’s map drawers creating a second Chicago Hispanic district. This led to freshman Rep. Marie Newman standing without her own district. Instead of challenging Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) in the original urban Hispanic seat, the district in which her La Grange residence was placed, she decided to instead oppose Rep. Sean Casten in the safely Democratic suburban 6th CD.

Though the seat carries Rep. Casten’s 6th, a bit more of the constituency belongs to Rep. Newman. The early resources favor Casten, as his $1 million in the bank is more than double Rep. Newman’s Sept. 30th filing deadline cash-on-hand total. This race will be one that turns sharply left, as both members identify with the party’s leftward faction. Rep. Casten is likely to attract more Chicago establishment support whereas Rep. Newman will get the bulk of leftward social issues coalition backing.

On paper, it appears that Rep. Casten would have at least a slight edge, but we can count on seeing a major campaign contest all the way to the June 28 primary.


IL-12:

• Rep. Mike Bost (R) vs. Rep. Mary Miller (R)
Candidate Filing: March 14
Primary: June 28

The second Land of Lincoln pairing features two Republican incumbents in the state’s southern sector. Typically, in a gerrymandered state the minority party inherits several very safe districts. Such is the case for the GOP in the new IL-12.

Most of Rep. Bost’s current 12th District constituency is in the new 12th, but the eastern part of a district that now encompasses all of the southern Illinois territory currently belongs to freshman Rep. Miller. The early financial edge also goes to Rep. Bost, but the two begin this race separated only by approximately $200,000.

Continue reading

New Hampshire Senate:
Toss-up Results

By Jim Ellis

New Hampshire first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D)

Oct. 25, 2021 — Only needing to gain a net one seat to claim the Senate majority, Republicans face a frustrating in-cycle map that yields few 2022 Democratic targets. One of those scarce opportunities, however, lies in the Granite State of New Hampshire.

Arguably, the New Hampshire race is the party’s best conversion opportunity and becomes a Republican prerequisite toward building a winning coalition of states. The latest University of New Hampshire poll, released late last week, suggests the GOP is well positioned to compete in the “Live Free or Die” region of New England.

The regular UNH Granite State poll (Oct. 14-18; 1,061 New Hampshire panel members, 979 likely New Hampshire voters, online) tested first-term incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) against several potential Republican opponents … and she falls into an early toss-up result against all.

First, a word about the UNH polling operation. Several years ago it was among the most inaccurate of pollsters, largely because they utilized long sampling periods sometimes lasting three weeks, and small respondent universes. They have improved since that time, though their online format chosen for this poll is typically not optimal.

The FiveThirtyEight statistical organization, in their latest pollster rankings, rates the UNH operation as their 112th best pollster, with a B- rating. They assign a 2.4 percent Democratic bias factor to the organization’s polling results over 122 tested surveys.

That being said, yesterday’s survey release finds Gov. Chris Sununu (R) again leading Sen. Hassan in a hypothetical ballot test pairing. There is no doubt Republican leaders are trying to persuade Gov. Sununu to run, but so far he has not committed to the race. He has the opportunity of running for a fourth gubernatorial term – New Hampshire has two-year terms for their governors – or pursing opportunities in the private sector.

This poll finds the Sununu advantage at three percentage points, 45-42 percent, which is of course in toss-up range, but seeing an incumbent well below 50 percent does not bode well for Sen. Hassan.

UNH also tested the senator against the woman she defeated by a tenth of a percentage point in 2016, or just over 1,000 votes statewide, former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R). The new poll virtually replays that result, posting Sen. Hassan to a bare 44-43 percent edge.

Continue reading

Brown, Carey Win In Ohio

Shontel Brown scored a convincing win in Ohio’s 11th District Democratic primary, virtually assuring her of a special general election victory on Nov. 2.

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2021 — Primary voters in two Ohio districts, for all intents and purposes, chose replacements Tuesday for resigned Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) and Steve Stivers (R-Columbus).

County Councilwoman and Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown scored a convincing win in the 11th District Democratic primary, virtually assuring her of a special general election victory on Nov. 2 in a seat that is safe for her party. Ohio Coal Association chairman Mike Carey did likewise in the 15th District Republican primary that occupies much of the Buckeye State’s southern sector.

Despite polling showing Brown trailing former state Sen. Nina Turner but consistently gaining momentum, it was obvious that the winner’s campaign peaked at precisely the right time. With 75,064 people voting in the Democratic primary, Brown scored a 50.2 – 44.5 percent victory. The other 11 candidates split the remaining 5.3 percent.

The 11th District contains most of the city of Cleveland in Cuyahoga County and part of Akron in Summit County. Brown’s Cuyahoga total percentage spread of 50.4 – 44.1 almost exactly mirrored the district-wide vote. Conversely, Turner scored a very tight 48.8 – 40.0 percent plurality in Summit County, a difference of just 54 votes.

Turner, the former national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign attracted support from the Democratic socialist movement, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the Justice Democrats PAC. She began the campaign as almost a prohibitive favorite, leading by a 50-15 percent margin in a late May Tulchin Research organization survey. Once the final financial totals are known, it will be clear that Turner outspent the winner by a better than 2:1 margin.

Brown, receiving backing from the more establishment-oriented Democrats including House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the Congressional Black Caucus, and former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, among others, began to chip away at the former state legislator’s lead about six weeks before the election and made steady gains through the closing period as polling highlighted.

The race’s most recent survey, from the Mellman Group (July 13-17; 400 OH-11 likely voters), gave Turner only a 41-36 percent advantage. A poll generally scoffed at in early July, from the Republican firm TargetPoint, found the two candidates tied at 33 percent. In the end, it was TargetPoint that proved closest to the final mark.

On the Republican side, with just 5,299 voters participating, community activist Laverne Gore was an easy winner, capturing 74 percent support. The Nov. 2 special election is now just a formality in the heavily Democratic district, however, and Brown can count on being sworn into the House toward the end of this year.

In his victory speech, 15th District Republican primary winner Mike Carey gave a large portion of the credit to former President Donald Trump who endorsed him in a crowded field of eleven candidates. “Tonight, the voters of the 15th Congressional District sent a clear message to the nation that Donald J. Trump is, without a doubt, the clear leader of our party,” Carey began his victory speech before his victory party supporters.

Continue reading