Category Archives: Senate

Massachusetts Primary Today

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 1, 2020 — A major political dynasty will end this evening. Today is Primary Day in Massachusetts and the long-awaited Democratic intra-party battle between two icons of Bay State politics, Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton) will be decided.

Sen. Markey was first elected to the state legislature in 1972 and has served in elective office consecutively ever since. He spent four years in the state House of Representatives, 36 years in the US House, and was elected in a special US Senate contest in 2013 to replace then-Sen. John Kerry (D) who had resigned to become US Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. Markey was re-elected to a full term in 2014.

Rep. Kennedy is the grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, and thereby related to President John F. Kennedy, and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). He is the latest member of the famed Kennedy political dynasty. Joe Kennedy III was elected to the House in 2012, replacing retiring Rep. Barney Frank (D-Newton) in the district that contains the cities of Newton and Brookline before moving south to annex Taunton and Fall River. Should he lose tonight, he will be the first Kennedy not to win a Massachusetts campaign.

The race appeared close from the outset, but Sen. Markey appears to be pulling away in both campaign funds ($11.8 million raised through the pre-primary filing period on Aug. 12 to $8.8 million) and polling. Both see significant expenditure organizations conducting independent operations to support their Senate bids.

Since the end of July, Sen. Markey has pulled away. He has led in seven consecutive polls by an average of 8.7 percentage points after trailing in the early stages of the race. The latest poll, from Emerson College (Aug. 25-27; 453 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) gives Sen. Markey a 56-44 percent lead when all respondents were prodded to make a choice. Interestingly, the last poll to find Rep. Kennedy leading also came from Emerson College during the early part of May. Those results show just how much the race has changed. Emerson previously projected Rep. Kennedy to a 58-42 percent advantage.

The Senate race is not the only major campaign on the Massachusetts ballot, however. House Ways & Means Committee chairman Richard Neal (D-Springfield) is striving to avoid becoming the ninth US House incumbent to be denied re-nomination in 2020. He faces a spirited challenge from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who is hitting Rep. Neal from his left and criticizing him for being part of the “status quo.” Like the other Democratic upset winners this year, he Justice Democrats PAC has endorsed Morse, but their spending here appears less than the other campaigns in which they became involved.

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Where the Senate Stands

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 28, 2020 — A tough battle is underway for the US Senate majority, and both parties are fiercely attempting to assume control in the next Congress. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority, but a win in Alabama would send them to 54-46, and that makes the Democrats’ road to the majority all the more difficult.

Democrats need a net conversion of three Republican seats if Joe Biden is elected president, and four if President Trump wins re-election.

Today, we take a snapshot look at polling figures in the key campaign states. How the states listed below eventually fall will determine which party runs the Senate for the 117th Congress.

Below, we provide you the two most extreme results of recent publicly released surveys from the competitive campaigns. The Ellis Insight ratings depict where the race is today, which is not solely based upon polling.


ALABAMA – Lean R (possible conversion)

Morning Consult (July 24-Aug. 2; 80 likely Alabama voters)
• Tommy Tuberville (R) – 52%
• Sen. Doug Jones (D) – 35%

Auburn University at Montgomery (July 2-9; 55 registered Alabama voters)
• Tommy Tuberville (R) – 44%
• Sen. Doug Jones (D) – 36%


ARIZONA – Lean D (possible conversion)

Redfield & Wilton Strategies (Aug. 16-18; 856 likely Arizona voters)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 53%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 34%

OnMessage (Aug. 2-4; 40 likely Arizona voters)
• Mark Kelly (D) – 48%
• Sen. Martha McSally (R) – 48%


COLORADO – Lean D (possible conversion)

Public Policy Polling (Aug. 18-19; 731 Colorado voters)
• Ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) – 51%
• Sen. Cory Gardner (R) – 42%

Morning Consult (July 17-26; 61 likely Colorado voters)
• Ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) – 48%
• Sen. Cory Gardner (R) – 42%


GEORGIA–A – Lean R/Toss

Garin Hart Yang Research Group (Aug. 10-13; 60 likely Georgia voters)
• Jon Ossoff (D) – 48%
• Sen. David Perdue (R) – 46%

Survey USA (Aug. 6-8; 62 likely Georgia voters)
• Sen. David Perdue (R) – 44%
• Jon Ossoff (D) – 41%


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MA-1: Will Rep. Neal Become #9?

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Richard Neal (left) finds himself defending his seat against credible Democratic challenger Alex Morse.

Aug. 25, 2020 — The intense Democratic Senate primary battle between incumbent Sen. Ed Markey and challenger, Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Newton), is not the only Massachusetts competitive intra-party campaign to be decided in the upcoming Sept. 1 nomination election.

House Ways & Means Committee chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) finds himself defending his seat against credible Democratic challenger Alex Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, a city of 40,000-plus people located just eight miles north of Springfield on I-391. Neal is clearly taking this primary seriously and fighting hard to avoid being the ninth House incumbent denied re-nomination in the 2020 election cycle.

Rep. Neal has already spent $4.3 million for his re-nomination campaign as reported in the Aug. 12 pre-primary Federal Election Commission campaign finance disclosure report. Conversely, Mayor Morse has spent just over $1 million, but the contest still appears close.

Now, an outside organization, Democratic Majority for Israel, has launched an attack television ad that hit Morse for a poor attendance record at Holyoke City Council meetings while claiming the local schools are among the lowest performing in Massachusetts. They cite, in support of their contention, the state government coming into the Holyoke district and assuming control of their education system.

Earlier, controversy arose when the College Democrats organization at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, located within the 1st District, accused Morse of sexual impropriety, which resulted in an immediate loss of local and national support. The move backfired, however, when it came to light that no such incidents had occurred during the times when Morse appeared at the university both as a candidate and previously a guest lecturer.

This challenge appears typical of the other three Democratic primaries where candidates successfully opposed veteran incumbents from the political left armed with money and support from national activists and progressive organizations. The three such challenges that transformed into upsets came at the expense of Reps. Dan Lipinski (D-IL; 8 terms), Eliot Engel (D-NY; 16 terms), and Lacy Clay (D-MO; 10 terms). Whether the Morse effort proves as successful remains to be determined.

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Is Minnesota In Play?

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2020 — The state of Minnesota has been the most loyal of Democratic states in the presidential election since 1972, but the latest survey research data suggests that the northern domain is returning to the competitive realm this year.

Four years ago, President Trump fell just 1.5 percent short of winning Minnesota, thus providing a sign that the electorate was beginning a possible transformation. That was partially underscored in 2018 even when the party lost two suburban Minneapolis districts but gained two back in the rural north and south. The latter two congressional seats were the only ones Republicans converted from Democrats in the whole nation, except for a Pennsylvania seat that flipped to the GOP because of a court-imposed redistricting map that substantially changed the boundaries.

The 2020 Minnesota polls have seesawed. Mason-Dixon Polling and Research was the first to release a statewide poll this year and did so just before the George Floyd killing occurred in Minneapolis. The M-D survey was conducted over the May 18-20 period and yielded former vice president Joe Biden a five-point lead, 49-44 percent. The Morning Consult organization was also in the field during that same relative period, May 17-26, and found a similar spread between Biden and President Trump, with the former posting a seven-point edge.

Within this same period, the Floyd controversy began on May 25. During the next two months, a pair of Minnesota polls were conducted, and Biden’s lead soared into double digits. Gravis Marketing executed a single-day poll on June 19 and found Biden’s lead had grown to 16 percentage points. Fox News followed with their survey a month later, July 19-20, and found a similar 13-point Biden advantage.

The situation began to change when Morning Consult again tested the Minnesota electorate over the July 17-26 period and saw the race closing back into the three-point range. This survey was confirmed with the Trafalgar Group’s numbers derived from their July 23-25 poll that found a similar five-point margin developing between the two candidates.

The next two, however, from Public Policy Polling and David Binder Research, both conducted during the July 22-31 time frame, produced 10 and 18 point spreads in Biden’s favor. The Binder poll, however, utilized a sample size of only 200 respondents, far below what would be typically required for a reliable statewide poll for a domain housing eight congressional districts.

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Rep. Spano Loses; Lummis to Return

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 19, 2020 — In the wake of yesterday’s primaries, here’s a quick look and analysis of the three states where voters cast their ballots — Florida, Wyoming and Alaska:


FLORIDA

Freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover), who had been under fire and investigation for accepting improper loans to his 2018 campaign, lost his re-nomination campaign last night to Lakeland City Commissioner, local business owner, and retired Navy pilot Scott Franklin in a 51-49 percent count with over 60,000 votes tabulated.

Spano becomes the eighth House incumbent and fifth Republican to lose re-nomination this year, the highest number we’ve seen during recent times in a non-redistricting election. With Franklin now as the new GOP nominee, it is reasonable to believe that the GOP is actually in stronger position to hold the seat because Franklin won’t have the political baggage that Rep. Spano carried.

For the Democrats, former TV News anchorman Alan Cohn defeated state Rep. Adam Hattersley (D-Riverview), 41-33 percent, to advance into the general election. Franklin becomes the clear favorite in this 53-43 percent Trump district that a congressional Democrat has never won since the Lakeland-anchored seat was first created in a similar configuration for the 1992 election.

Both primary winners here were outspent. Rep. Spano raised $1.06 million as compared to Franklin’s $587,000 according to the latest available campaign finance disclosure reports (through the July 29 pre-primary reporting period). Similarly, Rep. Hattersley out-raised Cohn, $642,000 to $589,000.

Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, the two open seats look to have GOP primary winners, both of whom are now prohibitive favorites to win the general election. In retiring Rep. Ted Yoho’s (R-Gainesville) 3rd District, his former staff member and ex-campaign manager Kat Cammack scored an upset win with just over 25 percent of the vote in a field of nine other candidates. She defeated former congressional aide and businessman Judson Sapp, and physician James St. George, both of whom substantially outspent Cammack. She now faces apparent Democratic primary winner Adam Christensen.

In the open 19th District, anchored in the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral area, two-term Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples/Ft. Myers) is retiring. In what turned into a very close finish, and one that is likely to venture into political overtime as more votes continue to be counted, state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples) clings to a small 774-vote lead over state House Majority Leader Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral).

Closely behind Eagle are Casey Askar, who has invested over $3 million into his campaign, and local physician William Figlesthaler who supplemented his effort with over $2 million from his personal funds. Both outspent Donalds by a better than 2:1 ratio. Once this race is officially determined, the new GOP nominee will be a lock in the November election. College professor Cindy Banyai was an easy winner on the Democratic side, but she is a severe underdog in the general election.

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Three States Vote Tomorrow

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 17, 2020 — August primary season continues tomorrow with nomination elections occurring in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming. Today, we cover Alaska and Wyoming. Tomorrow, we look at all the races in Florida.


ALASKA

The Alaska primary is not a major event because the general elections are basically set. Here, Independent candidates have the option of coalescing with a major party, which has a major effect upon the state’s politics. This Independent/Democrat situation is likely to occur in the Senate race, as favored candidate Al Gross, an Anchorage surgeon, will run as an Independent but coalesce with the Democrats. Therefore, regardless of what happens in tomorrow’s primary, Dr. Gross is likely to have ballot position in the general election.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) is seeking a second term. Several early polls found a tight race, but the latest survey, from the Alaska Survey Research firm (June 23-July 7; 66 likely Alaska voters), found the senator running ahead of Dr. Gross by 13 percentage points, 53-40 percent. At a commensurate time, Public Policy Polling (July 7-8; 1,081 Alaska voters via automated response device) found a five-point spread, with Sen. Sullivan holding only a 39-34 percent edge.

The latter PPP poll is suspect because Sen. Sullivan, as an incumbent, has an abnormally low ballot test standing, especially when comparing it to the Alaska Survey Research data. Additionally, when asked about President Trump’s job approval, the nation’s chief executive scored a 46:49 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Also asked of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), her ratio was a surprisingly poor 29:55 percent. Yet, when asked whether the respondents have a higher opinion of President Trump or Sen. Murkowski, by an inconsistent 48-45 percent, the sampling universe answered Sen. Murkowski.

Sen. Sullivan remains a favorite for re-election, but this race could develop and become of some interest. It is a sleeper race for the Democrats that could come home if a political tsunami forms.

At-large Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House who was originally elected in a 1973 special election, seeks a 25th term and can expect another competitive race. Should Rep. Young be re-elected he will have served a total of 50 years in the House upon completing the succeeding term. That would still place him almost a decade behind the all-time seniority leader, the late Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) who served 59 years.

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Sen. Markey Surges in Massachusetts

By Jim Ellis

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey (D)

Aug. 13, 2020 — A new University of Massachusetts statewide Democratic primary survey posts Sen. Ed Markey (D) to a surprisingly large lead over four-term Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) in their impending US Senate battle. The poll has methodology flaws, however, as the high error factor suggests.

The UMass survey (July 31-Aug. 7; 50 registered Massachusetts voters, 199 likely Democratic primary voters, 163 Independents saying they will choose to vote in the Democratic primary) posts Sen. Markey to a 50-32 percent first question ballot test lead, and 51-36 percent margin when those who say they are leaning to one candidate or the other are added.

The self-stated error factor is 5.9 percent for all registered voters and a whopping 7.0 percent for those likely to cast a Democratic primary ballot. Asking the ballot test and individual candidate profile questions to only the likely voters limits the sampling universe to 362; hence, the high error factor because the segmentation is too low for a statewide campaign in a place with a population large enough to fill nine congressional districts.

Even when taking into account the high error rate the new Markey advantage is beyond doubt, and it appears the senator’s campaign may be peaking at the proper time considering the primary is Sept. 1 and early voting begins Aug. 22.

Recently, Sen. Markey has been on an aggressive upswing. He’s receiving outside support from strong environmental groups that are delivering a seven-figure independent expenditure; he earned an endorsement from the largest state teacher’s union; and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is narrating his closing ads. The moves forced another group of unions and the Kennedy Family to counter by announcing a $1.6 million independent expenditure effort on the Representative’s behalf.

The UMass questionnaire asked the entire sample if they would describe the two candidates with one word apiece, and the results suggest Rep. Kennedy has a more negative image than Sen. Markey. While not all the top one-word answers were favorable to the veteran office holder – “old” was one of the most often mentioned terms, for example – he received more positive descriptions than negative. The top responses were, “progressive, good, dedicated, liberal, smart, and experienced.” Negative terms about Markey included “useless, unknown, and unsure.”

For Rep. Kennedy, we see a different picture. The top three words describing him were, “entitled, young, and ambitious.” Other major descriptors were, “opportunist, privileged, arrogant, and fake.” On the positive side, Kennedy was characterized as, “good, smart, energetic, and honest.”

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