Category Archives: Senate

A New Senate Contender
In Pennsylvania?

By Jim Ellis

May 5, 2017 — There is renewed interest from Republicans in challenging Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey Jr., but the Senate campaign is still slow to materialize. Fresh from President Trump’s and Sen. Pat Toomey’s simultaneous but highly different wins in 2016, the GOP now has recent political victory paths from which to chart a new Senate campaign against the two-term Democratic incumbent.

This week, a new potential candidate may be coming onto the scene but, if so, he will have to quickly jump-start his campaign apparatus. Four-term Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton/Luzerne County) confirms that he is considering entering the Senate race, but his campaign treasury is a long way from being ready for a statewide campaign.

In many ways, President Trump and Sen. Toomey ran strategically opposite campaigns, yet both were able to win close Keystone State elections. The Trump strategy was to increase turnout, meaning the Republican vote in the outer suburbs and the rural areas, in order to counter the substantial Democratic margins coming from the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas.

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Another Says No

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

April 28, 2017 — Democrats face a major problem in the 2018 Senate races that they have no ability to solve. Forced to defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats, not counting the new 2017 Alabama special election, there simply aren’t enough viable Republican conversion targets to yield a legitimate run for the majority.

Even in what should be their top conversion target, the Nevada race where GOP Sen. Dean Heller is seeking his second term, the Democrats do not yet have a viable candidate. This week, businessman Steve Cloobeck, who has the ability to self-fund a Silver State campaign, announced that he would not run.

And then, in a move that perplexed the Democratic leadership, Cloobeck went a step further and publicly endorsed Sen. Heller for re-election. While professing not to agree with Heller on core issues, Cloobeck says he appreciates “his (Heller’s) businesslike approach to politics and legislation.”

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Chaffetz to Retire; Cruz Down

By Jim Ellis

April 21, 2017 — Five-term Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) announced Wednesday that he will surprisingly retire from the House at the end of the current term. Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, says he wants to return to the private sector and devote the rest of this time in Congress to completing his open investigations. The congressman said he may well run for public office again, but not in 2018. When asked about him entering the impending open 2020 gubernatorial race, Chaffetz joked that he is a “definite maybe.”

Rep. Chaffetz becomes the 14th House incumbent who will not be on the ballot for the next election, including the four remaining special congressional elections. At least another 15 members are reportedly considering seeking a different elective office, or outright retirement. Nine of the previously mentioned 14 are Republicans.

Utah’s 3rd Congressional District is safely Republican. President Trump took the district with 47.2 percent of the vote, while Hillary Clinton actually placed third, just behind Independent Evan McMullin at 23.3 percent. The 3rd was one of Mitt Romney’s strongest districts in the entire country. In 2012, he defeated President Obama, 78-19 percent, in this CD. Reviewing the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain won here with a 68-30 percent margin.

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More Alabama Drama

By Jim Ellis

April 14, 2017 — In office now just a few days, new Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is reportedly contemplating a major electoral decision that will add to Alabama’s considerable political intrigue. According to a spokesperson for Ivey, the governor is considering changing the special election schedule as it relates to appointed US Sen. Luther Strange’s (R) situation.

In a controversial decision, former Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appointed then-Attorney General Strange to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) immediately after the latter was confirmed as US attorney general. The move was controversial since Strange was reportedly investigating the governor regarding the situation for which he resigned earlier this week, but during the appointment process said that no such inquiry was underway. After the Senate appointment was made and a new state attorney general installed, it was confirmed that a Bentley investigation was in fact quickly progressing.

In addition to choosing Strange to replace Sen. Sessions, Gov. Bentley scheduled the special election to fill the balance of the current Senate term to run concurrently with the regular 2018 election schedule. Some argued that Bentley exceeded his authority because the state’s special election law indicates the vote should be called “forthwith.” Bentley and his legal team argued that the “forthwith” reference in the Alabama statute referred to officially calling the election, but not necessarily to conducting the vote. Bentley also argued it is more cost effective to hold the special concurrently with the regular general election rather than incur the expense of running a stand-alone statewide vote.

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O’Rourke to Run

By Jim Ellis

March 31, 2017 — Reports coming from Texas, as reported in the Houston Chronicle, indicate that three-term Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will formally announce a challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz (R). Will O’Rourke be a viable challenger, or will his campaign be nothing more than a political suicide run?

It will be interesting to see what type of arguments the El Paso congressman and his Democratic allies use in attempting to convince the Texas electorate to choose a Senate Democratic contender for the first time since the late Lloyd Bentsen (D) was last re-elected in 1988. It has been 26 years since the Democrats won any major Texas statewide election, last occurring in 1990 when Ann Richards became governor. Other Democratic statewide candidates were also swept into constitutional office that year, as they had been for previous generations. George W. Bush unseated Gov. Richards in 1994, which actually began the period of Texas Republican dominance that continues to this day.

Beating Sen. Cruz may actually be more difficult than running against a typical Republican incumbent, meaning one who did not actively oppose President Trump. Democrats who hope to take advantage of what is typically a favorable wave for the out party in a president’s first mid-term election, may have a difficult time wrapping Cruz in such a surge, if it is to form, since he was the president’s chief electoral opponent for the GOP nomination.

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More Sunshine Polling

By Jim Ellis

March 24, 2017 — The Sunshine State of Florida may set an aggregate polling record if the current surveying pace continues. Already we have seen four different pollsters test what may evolve into a US Senate political battle between incumbent Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), including two new studies released just this week.

More telling than the sheer polling volume is seeing all four surveying entities detect virtually the same result. That is, Sen. Nelson has a discernible lead, as one would expect from a three-term incumbent, but his advantage is small and he fails to top 50 percent in any of the publicized ballot tests.

Sen. Nelson was first elected to the House in 1978 after spending six years in the Florida legislature. He served until running for governor in 1990, losing the Democratic primary to former three-term Sen. Lawton Chiles, who would go onto unseat Gov. Bob Martinez (R) to win the statewide political position. Nelson returned to win the office of Florida treasurer, insurance commissioner and fire marshal in 1994, and then was elected US senator in 2000. He will be 76 years old in November of 2018, and has said on numerous public occasions that he will run for a fourth term.

Gov. Scott came to politics after a career in the hospital industry, which led to him forming his own venture capital firm. Politically, he seems to specialize in winning close, upset elections. He nipped then-Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill McCollum in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary with a three-point margin of victory, and then defeated Florida CFO Alex Sink (D), 49-48 percent, in a contest that the latter was expected to win easily. Despite poor job approval ratings, Gov. Scott was able to slip past former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) in his re-election campaign, in yet another one-point race (48-47 percent).

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part IV

By Jim Ellis

March 22, 2017 — In our fourth and final installment in this update report series, we examine the latest happenings for the remaining seven 2018 US Senate campaigns.

• Utah: Now that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is sending signals that he will run for an eighth term (he is already the longest-serving Republican senator in history) much less political attention will be paid to this state. Should Hatch decide to retire, then former Massachusetts governor and presidential nominee Mitt Romney will become the center of attention. Romney made statements earlier in the year that he would consider running for the Senate from Utah. The context, however, was in the realm of an impending Hatch retirement. Same for former Utah governor and presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, but his likely appointment as ambassador to Russia means the former governor will be removed from the Senate picture irrespective of Sen. Hatch’s status.

In any event, this seat will remain in Republican hands. Currently, it appears that the senator will seek re-election and is projected to win again in 2018.

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