Category Archives: Senate

The Unique New York Special;
Other Key Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 23, 2020 — Voters in five states — New York, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia — will cast nomination votes today, and some interesting races are on tap.

NEW YORK

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx), faces challenges from former CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and two minor candidates today.

Though the intra-party challenges to Reps. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) have drawn the most political attention, Buffalo area state Sen. Chris Jacobs (R) is embroiled in a unique special congressional election to replace resigned-Rep. Chris Collins (R).

The special wasn’t designed to have such an interesting, and largely confusing format, but a quirk in New York election procedure has caused Jacobs to be campaigning simultaneously before two different electorates. He faces Democratic former Grand Island town supervisor Nate McMurray, who held Rep. Collins to a 48-47 percent victory in 2018 in the special general, and two strong Republican challengers in the regular 2020 primary.

It’s not particularly unusual to see a special election and a regular primary election being run concurrently, but it is strange to see a special general and a regular primary paired. Therefore, this forces Jacobs to campaign closer to the political center, a place where he typically falls, in his battle with McMurray to serve the balance of the current term, while also protecting his right flank against two opponents who are attacking him for being outside the Republican Party mainstream. McMurray has no such problem because he is unopposed on the Democratic side.

The 27th District is vacant because Rep. Collins resigned the seat when pleading guilty to an insider financial trading federal charge. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) scheduled the replacement election on the same day as the regular primary. Since the New York political parties give power to choose replacement nominees to the various county chairmen in the district, there is no special election primary. Therefore, voters only cast one ballot to fill a congressional vacancy.

While Sen. Jacobs needs the Republican rank and file to turn out heavily to support him against McMurray, two GOP candidates not chosen by the party leaders, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw and attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato, are consistently hitting him from the right, thus cross pressuring his message to the GOP base.

In the closing days, Parlato, who also carries the Conservative Party ballot line, has launched an additional attack on Jacobs indicating that he’s being investigated for voter fraud. While a citizen charge was filed, the local District Attorney has already dropped the action as having no substantiation. Still, Jacobs’ has had to defend himself on another political front.

The 27th District is an upstate seat that begins in the eastern Buffalo suburbs and extends north all the way to Lake Ontario, and then drops south of Rochester and east as far as the town of Canandaigua. The district includes four whole counties and parts of four others, including Erie and Niagara. It is a reliably Republican district (Trump ’16: 60-35 percent; Romney ’12: 55-43 percent).

The CD did flip to the Democrats, however, the last time a special congressional election was held here. Kathy Hochul, now New York’s lieutenant governor, won the seat in 2011. She was then subsequently defeated in the 2012 regular election by Collins, however.
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Handicapping the Senate

By Jim Ellis

June 22, 2020 — Senate control in the succeeding Congress is a major discussion point in the 24-hour news media and within political circles, therefore it helps to organize an election scorecard.

As we know, Republicans hold 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats, but they must risk 23 of their positions in the coming election. Democrats, on the other hand, defend just 12 of their 47 seats. In 2018, the fortunes were reversed as the Dems were forced to protect 26 of the 35 Senate contests in that election year, and the lopsided margin helped Republicans gain two seats and chamber control even in what proved a bad election year for them at the ballot box.

Let’s start with the 2020 safe seats for both parties. To hold the majority with 51 senators, Republicans must win any 21 of the 35 races. We will include those considered as likely winners in this category:

REPUBLICANS:

• Alaska – Dan Sullivan
• Arkansas – Tom Cotton
• Idaho – Jim Risch
• Louisiana – Bill Cassidy
• Mississippi – Cindy Hyde-Smith
• Nebraska – Ben Sasse
• Oklahoma – Jim Inhofe
• South Carolina – Lindsey Graham
• South Dakota – Mike Rounds
• Tennessee – Open Seat (Sen. Lamar Alexander retiring)
• Texas – John Cornyn
• West Virginia – Shelley Moore Capito
• Wyoming – Open Seat (Sen. Mike Enzi retiring)

Total – 13 | Remaining wins needed to reach 51: 8 of 22 contests

Clearly, several incumbents in this category will face competitive races – Lindsey Graham, for example, opposes a Democratic nominee, Jaime Harrison, who has already raised $19 million – but looking at the states’ political trends and incumbent vote history, and considering how the presidential race will affect turnout in each domain, all of the aforementioned GOP officeholders and candidates in the open states will almost assuredly hold in November.

Should any one of these individuals be upset, count on the Democrats winning the majority.

DEMOCRATS:

• Delaware – Chris Coons
• Illinois – Dick Durbin
• Massachusetts – winner of Sen. Ed Markey/Rep. Joe Kennedy Dem primary race
• Minnesota – Tina Smith
• New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen
• New Jersey – Cory Booker
• New Mexico – Open Seat (Sen. Tom Udall retiring)
• Oregon – Jeff Merkley
• Rhode Island – Jack Reed
• Virginia – Mark Warner

Total – 10 | Remaining wins needed to reach 51: 6 of 12 competitive contests

MUST-WINS FOR REPUBLICANS:

• Alabama – GOP nominee must defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D)
Most Recent Poll:
Mason-Dixon (Feb. 4-6) Tommy Tuberville 50%; Sen. Jones 42%
Mason-Dixon (Feb. 4-6) Jeff Sessions 54%; Sen. Jones 41%

Total – 14 | remaining GOP wins needed to reach 51: 7 of 11 competitive contests
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The Senate Barometer

Sen. Cory Gardner Senate campaign attack ads hitting former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hard (see COLORADO writeup below)


By Jim Ellis

June 18, 2020 — Next to discussion of the presidential race, the political contests attracting the most political attention and debate are the 2020 US Senate campaigns.

As we know, Republicans have a 53-47 Senate majority, meaning the Democrats will have to convert a net three GOP seats if Joe Biden wins the presidency, or four if President Trump is re-elected. Many believe that the winning presidential candidate will also sweep in a Senate majority for his party.

Below is an update of the key races:


• ALABAMA: In many ways, this could be the most important race on the board. Republicans must convert this seat back to their column in order to provide a greater cushion toward protecting their chamber majority. Sen. Doug Jones (D), who scored a fluke special election win in 2017, stands for a full six-year term in November.

Republicans are in a runoff election that will be decided on July 14, postponed from the original March 31 date. In the March 3 primary, retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville placed first over former attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions within a field of seven total candidates, 33-32 percent.

Runoff polling, however, gives Tuberville a large lead as the contenders enter the last month of the secondary election campaign. The May 26-27 OnMessage survey gave Tuberville a 49-43 percent edge, down considerably, however, from the 55-32% margin the former coach posted in a Cygnal research group poll conducted over the May 7-10 period.

Tuberville, with President Trump’s endorsement and running an ad saying Sessions’ appointment as AG is the president’s top regret since taking office, clearly has the advantage. In the general election, this race is a must-win for the GOP. If converted, the Republican majority expands to 54, which will be critical for their chances to hold.


• ARIZONA: Things continue to break retired astronaut Mark Kelly’s (D) way in the early going opposite appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R). Being one of the top national fundraisers with $31 million raised and millions more coming into the state in the form in independent expenditures, Kelly is the favorite to convert the seat in November. He has led in the last 11 publicly released polls, the latest coming from the Civiqs organization, polling for the Daily Kos Elections website (June 13-15), which posts Kelly to a 51-42 percent advantage.


• COLORADO: Sen. Cory Gardner (R) seeks a second term, and with the state’s electorate moving decidedly to the left since the incumbent’s original election in 2014, the Colorado race sets up well for Democratic conversion.

There is some weakness developing, however, surrounding Sen. Gardner’s likely Democratic opponent, former governor and presidential candidate John Hickenlooper. Recently, the Colorado Ethics Commission ruled that Hickenlooper, while governor, twice violated the state’s gift ban, which has caused him negative statewide publicity.

Now, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched an ad campaign underscoring the commission finding just as the former governor approaches his June 30 primary election against former state house speaker Andrew Romanoff. Sen. Gardner also is on the air in a new ad highlighting Hickenlooper’s statements during the presidential campaign when he was quoted extensively as saying he didn’t want to be a US senator. Taking this into consideration, more people are looking toward the Democratic primary, in which Romanoff is gaining some momentum. This general election is a must-win for the Democrats.
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In Georgia, It’s Perdue vs. Ossoff

By Jim Ellis

2020 Georgia Democrat Senate candidate Jon Ossoff

June 15, 2020 — By the end of last week, enough returns were tabulated from Tuesday’s Georgia Democratic primary election to project that documentary film maker and former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff has secured the Democratic US Senate nomination with just over 51 percent of the statewide vote. He defeats former Columbus mayor, Teresa Tomlinson, and ex-lieutenant governor nominee, Sara Riggs Amico, to win the party nomination outright.

On election night and since, Ossoff teetered around and over the 50 percent mark, but finally cemented the necessary margin as the counted vote totals had exceeded 99 percent. Had he finished with just 49 percent, it was still possible that a runoff could have been avoided. Second-place finisher Tomlinson could have immediately conceded the runoff since it was obvious that Ossoff would have been a prohibitive favorite moving forward into an Aug. 11 secondary election.

You will remember Jon Ossoff as a candidate who ran in the 6th District 2017 special election when then-Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services and resigned from the House. The succeeding special drew national attention and resulted in Ossoff raising $36 million for the lone congressional race. Despite the huge resource advantage, Ossoff lost to then-former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), who would in turn lose the next regular election to Democrat Lucy McBath.

For the 2020 Senate race, Ossoff’s fundraising is still good, but not nearly as impressive as when he became a national congressional candidate. For the current campaign, Ossoff attracted slightly over $4 million, significantly more than Tomlinson’s $2.5 million but well behind incumbent Republican David Perdue’s $13.2 million raised. All of the financial figures were current through the pre-primary May 20 filing deadline.

In 2014, David Perdue defeated Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former veteran senator, Sam Nunn (D). While projected as a close race, and one that could even be forced to a post-election runoff (Georgia is one of the few states that requires their general election candidates to obtain majority support) Perdue won the seat by eight percentage points, 53-45 percent.

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GA-13: Rep. Scott in Runoff

By Jim Ellis

GA-13 Rep. David Scott (D)

June 11, 2020 — Voting problems in Atlanta delayed counting and reporting from Tuesday’s primary, but it is now clear that nine-term veteran Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta) has been forced into an Aug. 11 runoff election with a candidate who spent less than $1,000 on her primary campaign.

With votes still being counted, Rep. Scott garnered only 46.8 percent of the vote to date, with the remaining 53.2 percent being divided among three Democratic challengers. Advancing into the runoff is former state representative Keisha Waites, who managed to attract 31.1 percent of the vote despite spending only $875.00 on her race.

In third place is former local county Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens (14.1% percent), who has previously challenged Rep. Scott in a party primary, while former East Point mayor Jannquell Peters finished fourth (8.0 percent). The latter two candidates have been eliminated.

Though tabulating continues, almost 88,000 votes have been recorded in this primary race, suggesting that turnout is robust. In the only recent Democratic primary from this congressional district, back in 2014, the total turnout was under 36,000 individuals. Combined, the latter two candidates, Owens and Peters, spent approximately $60,000. By contrast, Rep. Scott spent almost $900,000 so far on his 2020 political effort.

As mentioned above, the only other time Scott was challenged for re-nomination since his original 2002 congressional campaign came in 2014. The congressman defeated Owens in that year, 82-18 percent. In his nine general election victories, Scott has averaged 79.4 percent of the vote, including running unopposed three times.

The 13th District is a suburban Atlanta district that sits south and southwest of the city before moving westward and then north to encompass part of Cobb County. The CD contains all of Douglas county and parts of five others, including Cobb, Fulton, and Fayette. The Citizen Age Voting statistics record a 58.1% percent population figure for African Americans here as compared to 33.4 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

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Last Night’s Results

By Jim Ellis

June 10, 2020 — Voters in Georgia, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia chose nominees last night or sent finalists to runoffs in the two southern states.


• GEORGIA: Former vice president Joe Biden clinched his party’s presidential nomination with an 83 percent victory in the Georgia primary and sweeping the state’s 105 delegates. By all counts, Biden has secured the 1,991 bound first-ballot delegate votes to seal the nomination.

In the Democratic US Senate primary, former congressional candidate and documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff looks to have fallen just short of the 50 percent mark to secure the party nomination. If the trend holds as the final votes are counted, he will advance to an Aug. 11 runoff election. After trailing former lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico most of the night, ex-Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson appears to have secured the second runoff position in a close vote.

Logistical problems in the Atlanta area could delay the final totals, so whether Ossoff won outright and deciding the second runoff position are still not necessarily determined. It is likely, however, that a runoff will occur between Ossoff and Tomlinson, assuming the latter candidate chooses to continue. The percentage spread between the two is a lopsided 49-16 percent.

Numbers are also not final in the Atlanta suburban 7th District, but it appears that 2018 Democratic nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux, who came within 420 votes of winning the seat in that year, came close to avoiding a runoff with 46 percent of the vote. Should this trend hold, she will face state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero (D-Norcross) in the secondary election.

On the Republican side, retired Navy officer and physician Rich McCormick won the crowded primary outright as he topped 55 percent, an impressive total within a field of seven candidates. State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Gwinnett County) placed a distant second.

In the open 9th District, the seat that Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) is leaving to run for the Senate, state Rep. Matt Gurtler (R-Tiger) and retired Navy officer Andrew Clyde will advance to the Aug. 11 runoff. Former US Rep. Paul Broun finished in fourth position. In this safely Republican northeast Georgia district, the runoff winner will clinch the general election.

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Moving to the General

By Jim Ellis

June 4, 2020 — The June 2nd primary featured 10 states, and now the candidates are set for November. Below is a recap of the races from Tuesday’s primary that project as competitive this fall, and an early prognosis for each.


IN-5:

• St. Sen Victoria Spartz (R) vs. Christina Hale (D)
Trump ’16: 53-41%    |   2018 Congressional: 57-43% R (Brooks)

Ukrainian born state Senator Victoria Spartz topped a field of 15 Republican candidates with 41% on Tuesday night, after a nasty primary that resulted in some of the other contenders running ads touting that they were born in America. Democrat Christina Hale, a former state Representative and 2016 Lt. Governor nominee, had an easier time in her primary, and won with 39% of the vote, which was slightly under pre-election estimates.

Ms. Spartz is the favorite to win in November in a traditionally Republican district, but one that is moving more toward the center. Democrats will see how this race begins to unfold, but this is a seat on their secondary target list. We can expect Spartz to be tested early, and if the numbers suggest an opening, the Democrats will go for an upset win.


IOWA-SENATE:

• Sen. Joni Ernst (R) vs. Theresa Greenfield (D)
Trump ’16: 51-42%    |    2016 US Senate: 60-36% R (Grassley)

Iowa is one of three Republican firewall states to keep the Senate majority, with Montana and Maine being the other two. Sen. Joni Ernst seeks her first re-election and is now paired with Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. The Democratic establishment backed Greenfield, but she came under attack in the primary and defeated two opponents with 47% of the vote, a bit under pre-election projection.

All races in Iowa are competitive, so we can expect intense political competition here from the presidential race all the way through each of the state’s four House districts. Polling will show the Senate race as close until Election Day, but what should be another Trump victory here will help set the table for the remainder of the races. Sen. Ernst is rated as a slight favorite as the general election now officially begins.


IA-1:

• Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D) vs. St. Rep. Ashley Hinson (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 50-45% D

Freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) defends her seat for the first time and faces a top opponent in Republican state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Cedar Rapids), a former television news anchor. The 1st District looked to be the safest Democratic seat in the state after 2011 redistricting, but the electorate hasn’t voted that way. This will be a top tier Republican challenge race, and one to watch. Rep. Finkenauer certainly begins with the incumbent’s advantage, but the IA-1 campaign is a top national GOP target. If the Republicans are to have any chance of re-taking the House majority, Ms. Hinson will have to win.


IA-2:

• Rita Hart (D) vs. St. Sen. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R)
Trump ’16: 49-45%     |     2018 Congressional: 54-42% D (Loebsack)

The 2nd District, located in Iowa’s southeastern sector, is the district that has played best for Democrats during the decade despite President Trump carrying it in 2016.

Democrats feature former state Senator and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Rita Hart who was even unopposed in an open seat primary. Republicans counter with first-term state Senator Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa), who begins her fourth race for the congressional seat. Ms. Hart is the clear favorite here, and Dr. Miller-Meeks will have to prove her credibility nationally after three losses. If she does not begin the general election in competitive fashion, this race will quickly turn Ms. Hart’s way.
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