Category Archives: Senate

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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Welch In; Johnson Out; McBath Switches Districts in Georgia


NOTE: Ellis Insight will be taking a break starting tomorrow through the weekend. We’ll return on Monday, Nov. 29. Happy Thanksgiving to all!


By Jim Ellis

Nov. 24, 2021 — Vermont Congressman Peter Welch announces his Senate candidacy, two-term Georgia Rep. Lucy McBath announces a switch from her GA-6 district to GA-7 as a result of redistricting, and 85-year-old veteran Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces her retirement. Details below:

Vermont Senate

As expected, Vermont at-large Congressman Peter Welch (D-Norwich) announced his US Senate candidacy this week and becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D). With Welch representing the same statewide constituency as a senator, the move to the chamber of the states should be seamless.

It does not appear that Welch will have major opposition. At this point, Sanders for President campaign activist Niki Thran, a physician, is the only announced Democratic candidate. The more serious potential contenders are likely to opt for the now open at-large House seat.

Rep. Welch was first elected to the US House in 2006, and has cruised to re-election ever since. He was originally elected to the state Senate in 1980, and served 10 years. He became the Senate Democratic Leader for one two-year term.

In 1988, Welch ran for the US House, but lost the Democratic primary. He returned in the governor’s race two years later, this time winning the Democratic nomination but losing the general election. He would return to the state Senate in 2001 when then-Gov. Howard Dean (D) appointed him to fill a vacancy. He was then elected as a member of the Vermont legislative body in 2002, and became the Senate’s President Pro Tempore, a position he held until winning his first US House race.

GA-6

In a surprising response to the Georgia state House voting in favor of the new congressional redistricting map, two-term Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) announced, even before Gov. Brian Kemp (R) approves the final legislation, that she will depart her current 6th District since its new constituency trends strongly Republican.

Instead, she will challenge freshman Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee) in adjacent District 7 in next year’s Democratic primary. McBath will run to the left of her new opponent, who she will attempt to paint as being too conservative before the primary electorate.

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Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Retirement Could Create a Domino Effect of 0pen Seats

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 17, 2021 — Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), the Senate President Pro Tempore and fifth longest-serving senator in American history, announced Monday that he would not seek a ninth term next year.

The decision was a surprise in that few expected the senator to do anything but run despite some cryptic comments he made earlier in the year. Sen. Leahy will retire as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee after previously heading both the Agriculture and Judiciary Committees. He came to national prominence as the 10-year Judiciary Committee chairman.

As the Chittendon County State’s Attorney, Leahy first ran for the Senate as a little known underdog and was able to win a close general election in the Watergate year of 1974. In those days, Vermont was a Republican state. He was then re-elected in 1980, ’86, ’92, ’98, 2004, ’10, and ’16. Over his long electoral career, he averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over the eight elections.

During all of that time, he had one close call after his original victory, beating Republican Stewart Ledbetter by 2,755 votes in his first re-election during the 1980 campaign cycle. After that, in only one contest did he drop below 60 percent.

In his first election, with a combined vote on the Democratic and Independent Vermonters ballot lines, he was able to defeat Republican Richard Mallary and Bernie Sanders, the latter of whom drew 4.1 percent of the vote on the Liberty Union Party ticket.

After a string of Republican senators exiting, five in all with two more — Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) — not yet revealing their 2022 political plans, Sen. Leahy becomes the first in-cycle Democrat not to seek re-election. The five departing Republicans are Richard Shelby (AL), Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Rob Portman (OH), and Pat Toomey (PA).

Vermont, however, is unlikely to become a competitive open seat. Eight-term at-large Rep. Peter Welch (D-Norwich), who has the same constituency as a senator, is well positioned to succeed Sen. Leahy and is expected to soon announce his candidacy.

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