Category Archives: Senate

Poll: Murkowski Trailing Badly

By Jim Ellis

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R)

June 10, 2010 — A new Alaska statewide political survey suggests that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) is in serious danger of losing her coming re-election campaign.

Change Research, polling for the 314 Action Fund, an organization committed to electing more scientists to public office, conducted a study of the Alaska electorate and found incumbent Sen. Murkowski, who is looking to win a fourth full term, (R) faring poorly.

The poll (May 22-25; released June 9; 1,023 likely Alaska voters, online) tested Murkowski against announced Republican opponent Kelly Tshibaka, the former Alaska Commissioner of Administration, Dr. Al Gross, the 2020 Senate Democratic nominee who lost 54-41 percent to Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan, and John Wayne Howe of the Alaska Independence Party.

In 2020, Alaska voters adopted a new ballot procedure initiative that changes the state’s nomination system into a unique “top four” jungle primary. This means the four candidates attracting the most votes in the initial election all advance into the general election.

With Sen. Murkowski having trouble within her own Republican Party, this system prevents her from again facing a closed partisan primary like the one she lost in 2010, since it is difficult to fathom she or any other incumbent failing to even place fourth in a primary election. In the year she lost re-nomination, Sen. Murkowski was able to quickly rebound and win as a write-in general election candidate.

While the top-four system likely helps Sen. Murkowski, the new general election system may not play to her favor. After the top four candidates qualify, the ranked-choice voting system takes effect to decide the general election. This means voters will rank the candidates from 1 through 4.

Once the fourth place finisher is determined, assuming no one has reached 50 percent, those voters who rank the fourth place finisher as number 1 have their ballots retrieved and their second choice is added to the remaining totals. This process continues in rounds until one candidate secures majority support.

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S-1: An Unintended Consequence?

By Jim Ellis

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY)

June 7, 2021 — Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has scheduled the controversial federal elections bill, S-1, the companion measure to the House-passed HR-1, for debate on June 21, which appears to be a curious move. At this point, it seems improbable that the leadership can break the filibuster rule, and without doing so, how does the bill pass?

If such an observation is correct, then what does Sen. Schumer gain from bringing the bill to the floor, and will there be unintended consequences? These are questions to be answered after the bill is debated and either passed, dispensed with, or put on hold for a future legislative maneuver.

As we know, the filibuster rule is surviving because Democrats Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) won’t support changing the rule. Both senators, at least at this point, seem intransigent in their position.

Sen. Manchin just this week verbally shot back at reporters for continually asking him if he is changing his stance on the filibuster rule. “I’m not separating our country, OK?” Manchin said. “I don’t know what you all don’t understand about this. You ask the same question every day. It’s wrong.”

The Daily Kos Elections site yesterday published a filibuster-related response from Sen. Sinema to an Arizona constituent identifying himself through an email address as Triumph110. Below is an excerpt from a very long historically based response:

“I have long said that I oppose eliminating the filibuster for votes on legislation. Retaining the legislative filibuster is not meant to impede the things we want to get done. Rather, it’s meant to protect what the Senate was designed to be.

“I believe the Senate has a responsibility to put politics aside and fully consider, debate, and reach compromise on legislative issues that will affect all Americans. Therefore, I support the 60-vote threshold for all Senate actions. Debate on bills should be a bipartisan process that takes into account the views of all Americans, not just those of one political party. Regardless of the party in control of the Senate, respecting the opinions of senators from the minority party will result in better, commonsense legislation.

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Latest Senate News – Part II

By Jim Ellis

May 28, 2021 — Today, we complete our two-part series pertaining to the latest Senate happenings, covering the latter half of the alphabet from New Hampshire through Wisconsin.

• New Hampshire: If Gov. Chris Sununu (R) decides to challenge Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), then the Granite State will likely become the Republicans’ best national conversion opportunity. In the only two publicly released polls this year testing such a pairing, Gov. Sununu leads in both.

Though New Hampshire has trended more Democratic at the top of the ticket in the past few elections and President Biden scored a better than expected 53-45 percent win here in November, Gov. Sununu has claimed three consecutive elections, including a 65 percent victory last year. The governor indicated he will make a decision about a Senate challenge during the summer. Should Sununu not make the race, Sen. Hassan becomes a clear favorite to win a second term.

• North Carolina: In another key Republican open seat, the North Carolina race appears to feature tough primaries in both parties. For the Republicans, whose eventual nominee will attempt to hold retiring Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) seat, former Gov. Pat McCrory, Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), and ex-Rep. Mark Walker reside in the top tier, with the former state chief executive enjoying big leads in early polling.

For the Democrats, the primary appears to be winnowing down to a contest between former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who lost her seat in November by just 401 votes statewide, and state Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte).

This will be another toss-up, top-tier Senate race regardless of who emerges from each of the competitive nomination contests.

• Ohio: The Buckeye State’s open US Senate race is beginning to crystallize. The Democratic side is headed for consensus around US Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Warren/ Youngstown) candidacy.

The Republicans look to have at least four strong candidates, former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, ex-state Treasurer and 2012 US Senate nominee Josh Mandel, author J.D. Vance, and possibly state senator and Cleveland Indians baseball club co-owner Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls).

Businessmen Michael Gibbons and Bernie Moreno are also announced candidates, but they appear as second-tier contenders at this time. US Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) remains a potential candidate. It appears that former US representative and 2018 US Senate nominee Jim Renacci is moving toward a Republican primary challenge against Gov. Mike DeWine in lieu of again running for the Senate.

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Latest Senate News – Part I

By Jim Ellis

May 27, 2021 — Incumbents, candidates, and potential candidates are making political moves in some key upcoming 2022 Senate races, which makes now a good time to review the latest happenings. Today we look at the significant developing races alphabetically from Alabama through Nevada. Tomorrow, we cover the remainder.

• Alabama: Sen. Richard Shelby (R) is retiring, and the early Republican primary battle looks to be a match between Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), armed with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, and ex-US Ambassador Lynda Blanchard who is promising to personally spend $5 million on her campaign.

No Democrat has yet come forward to declare a candidacy. US Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), the lone Democratic member of the congressional delegation, has already said she that will seek re-election next year and not run statewide.

• Arizona: Sen. Mark Kelly (D), who won the 2020 special election, must stand for a full six-year term in this election cycle. At this point, four Republicans are in the mix. Term-limited Attorney General Mark Brnovich appears poised to enter the race. Venture capitalist Blake Masters, with presumed major backing from billionaire donor Peter Thiel, is likely to run, as is retired Air Force Major General Michael McGuire. Solar energy company executive Jim Lamon has already announced his candidacy.

This will be a top-tier 2022 Senate campaign and is considered a must-win for both parties.

• Florida: The Sunshine State has been drawing a great deal of political media attention of late, all concerning House members looking to run statewide. It now appears set that Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) is in the governor’s race, while Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) seeks re-election, and Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando) appears set to announce her challenge against two-term Sen. Marco Rubio (R).

The Florida Senate race will be competitive because campaigns in this state are always close and Rep. Demings will be a strong opponent. Incumbent Sen. Rubio, however, begins with a clear advantage.

• Georgia: Like Sen. Kelly in Arizona, freshman Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) won the special 2020 election to serve the balance of an unexpired term. He, too, must stand for a full six-year term next year.

At this point, now that former Rep. Doug Collins says he won’t run, most of the attention centers around former Georgia football legend Herschel Walker (R) and whether he will return from Texas to challenge Sen. Warnock. Walker promises a decision by summer.

If the former football star chooses to pass, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler/Savannah) says he will run. Banking executive Latham Saddler and construction company owner Kelvin King are the announced GOP candidates. The list of potential Republican candidates is long with state House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) being the latest to discuss the race with national GOP leaders.

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Senate Vulnerability

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2021 — We all know that the 2022 US Senate election cycle will be key, largely because every race has the potential of breaking the body’s 50-50 partisan tie. Today, we prioritize the 34 seats in order of electoral strength over the past five top statewide elections in each of the 2022 in-cycle Senate states. This allows us to objectively see from a statistical point which Senate seats appear, at least on paper, to be most vulnerable.

Next year, 34 Senate races are on the ballot with the Republicans defending 20 and Democrats 14 of each party’s 50 incumbent seats.

While the statistical analysis result below largely tells us what we have seen through previous polling, averaging the last five statewide races from each place, President 2020, the most recent Senate race, the most recent governor’s contest, and both the 2016 presidential race and the Senate race that elected the current incumbent, provides more concrete data.

The winning percentage margin was researched for all five historical political contests, and then the mean averaged calculated in each of the 2022 Senate states.

The conclusions:

STATE INCUMBENT PARTY AVG
CA PADILLA D 57.6
ND HOEVEN R 36.4
HI SCHATZ D 34.8
OK LANKFORD R 31.0
ID CRAPO R 30.4
AR BOOZMAN R 28.9
UT LEE R 28.8
NY SCHUMER D 28.4
SD THUNE R 26.9
AL SHELBY (O) R 24.1
MD VAN HOLLEN D 21.5
KY PAUL R 18.1
VT LEAHY D 17.5
CT BLUMENTHAL D 17.2
WA MURRAY D 16.6
IL DUCKWORTH D 16.1
LA KENNEDY R 15.6
IN YOUNG R 15.0
OR WYDEN D 14.9
KS MORAN R 14.3
AK MURKOWSKI R 11.9
MO BLUNT (O) R 11.8
SC SCOTT R 11.7
IA GRASSLEY R 10.3
CO BENNET D 8.8
OH PORTMAN (O) R 6.8
NV MASTO D 3.2
FL RUBIO R 2.6
NC BURR (O) R 1.6
NH HASSAN D 1.6
WI JOHNSON R 1.7
GA WARNOCK D 3.6
AZ KELLY D 5.6
PA TOOMEY (O) R 5.8

(O) – denotes open seat


The above chart shows that the five strongest incumbents, based only upon the top elections from 2016 through the present, are appointed Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and regularly elected Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Brian Schatz (D-HI), James Lankford (R-OK), and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

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Rep. Murphy to Challenge Sen. Rubio

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)

May 14, 2021 — According to the Axios news site, insiders close to Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) say that she has made the decision to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R) next year and will formally announce her campaign next month. The move had been expected for some time.

Rep. Murphy, a native of the country of Vietnam, was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating veteran Republican incumbent John Mica after the state Supreme Court had re-drawn the Florida congressional districts and made the 7th CD more Democratic. She unseated Rep. Mica 51-49 percent, and then scored re-election victories of 58 and 55 percent in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

A strong fundraiser, Rep. Murphy obtained over $3 million for both of her incumbent re-election campaigns. She ended the 1st quarter 2021 with a cash-on-hand figure of $1.43 million. Sen. Rubio posted $3.9 million in his campaign account during the same reporting period.

Assuming Murphy does enter the race next month, Democrats will have a credible challenger to Sen. Rubio, but one who still must be considered a decided underdog. In 2010, Sen. Rubio, then a state representative, defeated then-governor Charlie Crist, who was running as an Independent, and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek by a 49-30-20 percent margin. He was re-elected in 2016 with a 52-44 percent vote spread over then-congressman Patrick Murphy (D).

Florida races, as we know, are always competitive and usually very close, though the state has been trending more Republican over the past several elections. A Rubio-Stephanie Murphy race promises to become a national campaign.

With the Democrats apparently attracting a strong candidate in Florida, it is a good time to review the other key races.

In Pennsylvania, both parties are headed for very crowded primaries as each works to nominate a candidate to hopefully succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Afghan War veteran Sean Parnell entered the Republican primary earlier this week, but his only venture into elective politics was recording a two-point loss to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) last November in an Allegheny County suburban district.

Rep. Lamb, himself, may join the Democratic Senate campaign, meaning both parties are going to host political dogfights for the party nomination. In any event, however, the Pennsylvania race will be a top-tier national campaign.

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Senate Action

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown)

By Jim Ellis

April 29, 2021 — While most of the political world was focused on the census’s national apportionment announcement, several Senate moves of merit were also made this week.

In Ohio, US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown) finally made his fledgling US Senate campaign official. Originally saying he would announce sometime in March only to postpone formal entry to an undetermined time, Ryan finally made his declaration on Monday. Once former Ohio Health Director Amy Acton — who was running slightly ahead of Rep. Ryan in early Democratic primary polling — said that she was not going to run, that paved the way for the 10-term congressman to open with an apparently clear path to the Democratic nomination.

Simultaneously, in Georgia, another announcement was made but one that contained a surprising message. Former Rep. Doug Collins (R), who placed third in the 2020 US Senate jungle primary, also declared his political intentions for 2022 on Monday. While observers were expecting the former four-term congressman to enter the current Senate race, he instead said he will not run for any office next year but didn’t close the door on returning to elective politics in another election cycle.

Yesterday, in another largely expected move, former North Carolina state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley (D), who lost her position in November by a scant 401 votes statewide, announced via video that she will enter the open Tar Heel State Senate race.

The three moves help further set the stage for a trio of critical Senate contests that will each contribute mightily toward determining which party breaks the 50-50 tie and assumes control of the body after the next election.

Despite Rep. Ryan looking as the candidate to beat for the Ohio Democratic nomination, the general election won’t be easy. Additionally, this political cycle could be different in terms of political options for Ryan. He has several times dipped his toe in the statewide or national waters only to return to the safety of his House district. With it now a certainty that Ohio will lose another congressional seat, and with at least one scenario suggesting that the eliminated seat could become Rep. Ryan’s 13th District, his usual fail-safe move might not again be available.

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