Category Archives: Senate

GOP Battle Brewing in
North Carolina Senate

Former Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) – on thin ice in Senate bid? / Photo by Hal Goodtree, Flickr

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2022 — The North Carolina Senate candidates have dealt with more uncertainty than any other set of statewide political contenders in this election cycle. Some of the questions have now been answered, but others remain.

Due to the continuing congressional and state legislative redistricting legal battles that have hampered the state for virtually the entire preceding decade, even the candidate filing date and the primary schedule itself were in doubt until the courts finally set a political calendar.

In order to be more relevant for the 2020 presidential election, the legislature moved the state’s traditional May primary to early March to better influence the presidential nomination selection. By not taking action to move the primary back to May, it appeared that voters would choose their ’22 nominees on March 8.

In December, the state Supreme Court, after an early flurry of lower court redistricting action, took it upon themselves to transfer the state primary to May 17. They merely suspended the Dec. 17 candidate filing deadline, but did not issue a new date. Earlier this week, as part of its ruling upholding the GOP legislature’s congressional and legislative maps, the special three-judge panel assigned to hear the redistricting challenges set the filing deadline for March 4.

With these basic questions now answered, the candidates finally have a clear electoral timeline in which to work. With the Democrats earlier coming together on a consensus candidate, fireworks are beginning on the Republican side. In mid-December, state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte), thought to be a major US Senate contender, dropped his statewide bid. This makes former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley an overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination.

In the past few days, a pair of Tar Heel State Republican primary Senate polls were released almost simultaneously, with both finding former Gov. Pat McCrory holding an edge over US Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance). The ex-state chief executive’s advantage isn’t what one would expect for a well known party leader before his own partisan electorate, however. The McCrory campaign released their Strategic Partners Solutions survey (Jan. 5; 800 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) that gives their man a 30-21-8 percent lead over Rep. Budd and former US Rep. Mark Walker.

The Civitas Institute’s latest Cygnal statewide poll (Jan. 7-9; 600 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) also found McCrory holding an initial lead, but only through a 24-19 percent spread. Pushing for a decision from the 48 percent who said they were undecided and adding those preferences to the total actually finds Rep. Budd pulling into a small lead, 34-33 percent, when accounting for those who have “definitely” and “probably” made up their minds.

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Texas 2022 Candidate Filing Closes

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 17, 2021 — Texas became the first state to see candidate filing close for the 2022 elections, so the campaign season has officially been launched.

In the Lone Star State, candidates file with their respective state party organizations, or county parties if their race is fully contained within one entity, and not the Secretary of State. Therefore, the filings might not yet be fully recorded and approved. The statewide primary is scheduled for March 1. If no candidate for whatever office does not receive majority support in the first election, a runoff between the top two finishers will occur on May 24.

What we know so far is that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will face a significant Republican primary challenge from former Florida congressman and ex-Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West and former Dallas state Sen. Don Huffines. The latter man, who was defeated for re-election in 2018, has the ability to self-fund a statewide primary campaign. Former congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke will be the Democratic nominee as he faces only minor opposition in the party primary.

Regardless of the level of competition, Gov. Abbott, though his approval ratings are at a low ebb in his seven-year career as the state’s chief executive, is a heavy favorite in both the Republican primary and the 2022 general election.

The main constitutional office of interest is the attorney general’s race. Here, embattled incumbent Ken Paxton (R), who has for years been under a federal SEC indictment that has yet to move forward, and who has been publicly accused of having an ongoing extra-marital affair, faces three strong candidates for re-nomination: State Land Commissioner George P. Bush, US Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), and state Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.

Though Paxton has personal and legal problems, his favorability ratings among Republican primary voters is still surprisingly high. Forcing the two-term attorney general into a runoff election, however, is a clear possibility.

With the state having no Senate race in 2022, the federal focus turns to the new 38-member US House delegation. Texas gained two seats in national reapportionment, thus increasing their delegation size from 36 to 38 seats. The state will wield 40 electoral votes in the next presidential election, second only to California’s reduced 54.

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Alabama Senate:
Primary Now Competitive

Former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 16, 2021 — For the most part, early polling has given Alabama US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) a big lead in his open Senate Republican primary race, but a series of later surveys reveal a major change on the ballot test.

According to the new McLaughlin & Associates survey of the Alabama Republican electorate, Rep. Brooks’ lead has dropped to single-digit points over former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt, with business owner and military veteran Michael Durant, a relative newcomer to the race, also making his presence felt. An earlier unrelated poll actually found Britt posting a slight edge over the field.

The McLaughlin study (Dec. 6-9; 500 likely Alabama Republican primary voters; 80 percent self-identified Republicans; 20 percent non-Republicans who say they will vote in the Republican primary, live interview) projects Rep. Brooks to be holding a 31-26-17 percent advantage over Britt, who is also a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R), and Durant. In a troubling sign for Brooks, a hypothetical runoff contest between the congressman and Britt fell the latter candidate’s way on a 39-37 percent count.

Before November, Brooks held huge polling leads — from 23 to 43 points in surveys conducted during the August through October period. The McLaughlin poll seems to reinforce a developing trend that the Strategy Group and the Cygnal polling organization detected in November polling.

Cygnal (Nov. 3-4; 650 likely Alabama Republican primary voters, text, interactive voice response, email), polling for the Alabama Conservatives Fund, actually saw Britt, for the first time, taking a slight 24-22-9 percent lead over Rep. Brooks and Durant.

The Strategy Group (Nov. 1-4; 784 likely Alabama Republican primary voters; live interview and interactive voice response system) found the Brooks lead over Britt to be only 28-23 percent. The SG poll was conducted largely as an issue survey for the Alabama House Republican Caucus, but they asked one question to test a Brooks-Britt isolated Senate primary, which could be a precursor to a runoff contest.

The Alabama race is another where former President Donald Trump has come out early with an endorsement. His support helped Rep. Brooks build a large early lead, but the ex-president will have to come more to the forefront if his candidate is to reverse the latest trend.

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Sans Sununu, New Hampshire Republican Candidates Still in Favorable Position

By Jim Ellis

US Senate candidate Corky Messner (R) | Photo by Amanda Blundo, Corky for Senate Campaign

Dec. 6, 2021 — A new Tarrance Group poll of the New Hampshire general electorate conducted for potential US Senate candidate Corky Messner (R) shows the Republicans in a favorable position to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) even without Gov. Chris Sununu (R) as her opponent.

The survey (Nov. 14-17; 500 likely 2022 New Hampshire general election voters, live interview) finds Messner lagging only two points behind the first-term senator, 47-45 percent. This type of ballot test result shows a weaker standing for the Republican nominee than when Gov. Sununu was paired with Hassan — in virtually every poll during the past year, the governor was leading — but a lesser known candidate’s support figure lying within the polling margin of error is certainly a positive sign for Republican chances.

Digging deeper into the poll, we find positives for both candidates. Sen. Hassan’s job approval rating is in positive territory at 50:45 percent, with a personal favorability index of 48:44 percent. Though her numbers are not stellar, considering the generic question (would you vote for a Republican or Democrat for US Senate) actually favored the GOP by a 45-42 percent count, her standing is at least stable within the context of what, for her, is an adverse political climate. Typically, the Democrats almost always lead on the generic question.

Perhaps the biggest positive for Messner from this data revolves around a ballot test within the cell group of respondents who are familiar with both candidates. This is a particularly large cell, since 74 percent of the sample participants expressed knowledge of both contenders. In looking at the ballot test figures within just this group, Messner forges into the lead, 50-43 percent.

Assuming the electorate at large would also behave in such a manner upon gaining adequate familiarity with both candidates, such a finding would be highly significant and reinforces the analysis that New Hampshire remains the Republicans’ strongest conversion opportunity.

Messner has not yet announced for the Senate, only saying he is considering becoming a candidate. He was the party’s 2020 Senate nominee, losing to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D), 57-41 percent, with the senator outspending Messner, $17 million to $7 million.

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PA-Senate: Republicans in Trouble

Former US Ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands — a Pennsylvania senate candidate to watch.

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 29, 2021 — The Keystone State of Pennsylvania, with an open Senate and governor’s race, will be a focal point of the 2022 election cycle, and last week the Republicans’ early problems grew worse.

The Pennsylvania GOP began this election cycle in a seemingly underdog position as they fought to hold the Senate seat from which two-term incumbent Pat Toomey (R) is retiring; now they are clearly playing from behind.

Iraq War veteran Sean Parnell (R) had former President Donald Trump’s endorsement and was leading the Republican primary in early polling. However, due to losing a child custody judgment rendered at the beginning of this week after a contentious trial in which his ex-wife had accused him of domestic abuse, Parnell withdrew from the Senate contest.

It’s a loss for his party, but Parnell wasn’t even the best of candidates. In his first bid for public office, running for the 17th Congressional District seat against Allegheny County area incumbent Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh), now himself a Senate candidate, Parnell came close but lost 51-49 percent. Based upon a close defeat in a winnable district, he decided to make a statewide Senate run.

Two other primary opponents, former lieutenant governor nominee Jeff Bartos and Army veteran, Trump campaign activist, and former congressional candidate Kathy Barnette, also lost their most recent political races. Therefore, the original three leading Republican candidates in either polling or fundraising hadn’t ever won a race and were falling well behind their Democratic counterparts.

The Democrats feature the overall early race leader, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. He commands first position in primary and general election polling and has raised way more campaign capital than all of his opponents, over $9.2 million through the Sept. 30 financial disclosure period.

John Fetterman, however, isn’t without his own flaws. In 2013, when he was mayor of Braddock, a borough southeast of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County and located on the Monongahela River, Fetterman pulled a loaded weapon on an unarmed African-American jogger after hearing gunshots fired in his neighborhood. The Fetterman campaign has already produced a short video explaining the incident in anticipation of this becoming an issue in his 2022 statewide effort.

Rep. Lamb is running second to Lt. Gov. Fetterman in polling and dollars raised, almost $7 million behind his chief Democratic rival. The latest poll, from the Civiqs organization (Oct. 31-Nov. 1; 929 likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters, online) found Fetterman way ahead of Rep. Lamb, 52-12 percent, with other announced and possible candidates, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia), Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, and potential contender Sharif Street, a state senator and son of former Philadelphia Mayor John Street, all polling at five percent or less.

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