Category Archives: Senate

Late Senate Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2020 — Our final installment pertaining to the in-cycle Senate races covers the contests with primaries from mid-August through September:

AUGUST 6

Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is retiring and the Tennessee open Senate seat has generated little in the way of political competition. Republican leaders, including President Trump, have joined together in support of former US Ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, and he is a heavy favorite to win the party nomination and the general election. Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi is challenging Hagerty in the Republican primary, but him topping the former ambassador for the party nomination would be a major upset.
Dr. Sethi does have the wherewithal to compete, however. Through September, he loaned his campaign over $1.5 million in addition to raising almost $900,000. For the fourth quarter, Hagerty is going to report over $1.5 million raised with $3 million in the bank.
Democrats have virtually conceded the general election, largely as a response to then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) defeating the person they believed was their best possible Democratic candidate in the last election, the state’s former two-term governor, Phil Bredesen. Blackburn’s strong 55-44 percent victory margin against the best they have has clearly dissuaded potential Democratic candidates who may have considered entering this year’s open contest.
Of the three who look to file on April 2, attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler, who exited the 2018 Senate race at the party leadership’s behest, is now their candidate of choice but he appears to be a sacrificial lamb at this point.

AUGUST 11

Minnesota: Then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) was appointed to the Senate in 2018 when then-Sen. Al Franken (D) resigned in disgrace over a sexual harassment scandal. Smith won the subsequent special election, 53-42 percent, over state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s County). She now stands for a full term and will likely draw former one-term US representative and radio talk show host Jason Lewis (R).
The former congressman is capable of running a credible campaign, and should the presidential race again get close in Minnesota as it did in the last election with Hillary Clinton carrying the state by less than two percentage points, the Senate race could conceivably become close. In any event, Sen. Smith is certainly favored to win again, but the campaign bears watching in case developments begin to break the Republicans’ way.

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Early Senate Primaries – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2020 — A total of 35 US Senate races will adorn the various state ballots this year, and the nomination process will begin in five states on Super Tuesday. Voters in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas will make Senate candidate choices on March 3 since their domains have linked the statewide primary concurrently with the presidential primaries. The remaining Super Tuesday statewide primary state, California, does not host a Senate race in this election cycle.

After Super Tuesday, Mississippi and Illinois will hold Senate primaries later in March. Then, a respite comes until May when six more states’ electorates will choose their candidate slates.

MARCH 3

Alabama: The premier March Senate primary comes in Alabama where former US Attorney General and ex-Senator Jeff Sessions attempts to re-claim the seat from which he resigned to accept his federal appointment. In the subsequent special election to replace Sessions, Democrat Doug Jones was able to win the seat and now stands for a full six-year term.
Sessions, however, faces credible Republican opposition and the top two primary finishers heading to an April 14 run-off election appears probable. Sessions looks to be leading the race and is likely either to face former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville or US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile).
Former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore, who lost the special election to Sen. Jones, lags well behind most of the GOP field. Assuming Moore does not rebound to win the nomination, the eventual Republican nominee should become the favorite against Sen. Jones in a state where President Trump will record one of his strongest victory percentages.

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Cheney to Remain in the House

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/ Jackson)

Jan. 21, 2020 — When Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R) decided to retire last May, it had been assumed that at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/ Jackson), the daughter of former vice president and at-large Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney, would run for the seat. That is not the case, however. Late last week, Rep. Cheney announced that she will seek re-election later this year instead of entering the open Senate race.

When Cheney first ventured into elective politics she looked to run for the Senate, beginning with a Republican primary challenge to Sen. Enzi in 2014 that would later end before going to the ballot. She was then elected to the House two years later when at-large Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) decided to retire after four terms.

Now with Lummis attempting to return to elective politics with her own Senate campaign, the statewide situation may significantly change. Many were waiting on the sidelines to see what Rep. Cheney would do in order to decide whether to run for the House or the Senate. Now, we may begin to see some serious candidate action, but much time remains for individuals to decide. The Wyoming candidate filing deadline is May 29 for the Aug. 18 primary.

In addition to former Congresswoman Lummis, the only two announced Republican Senate candidates are retiree Patrick Dotson and disabled veteran Josh Wheeler. Though Democrats will be severe underdogs here in the general election, three candidates have announced: college professor Merav Ben-David, actor Chuck Jagoda, and non-profit group executive Yana Ludwig.

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New Arizona Data

By Jim Ellis

Arizona Senate candidate, retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), and Sen. Martha McSally (R)

Jan. 10, 2020 — Public Policy Polling conducted a study of the Arizona electorate (Jan. 2-6; 760 registered Arizona voters) to test the highly important impending US Senate race between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly, the presumed Democratic nominee.

PPP also ran ballot tests involving President Trump paired individually against the major Democratic presidential contenders. Even though Arizona is a critical state in the 2020 presidential general election, the early projection numbers are not particularly salient because the contest has yet to begin in earnest, but the Trump results do provide a credibility foundation to analyze the PPP Senate numbers.

The Senate ballot test shows, as does every other previous survey of this race, that the McSally-Kelly battle is within the polling margin of error. The PPP numbers, at 46-42 percent in Kelly’s favor, project a four-point spread between the candidates, which is a bit more separation than revealed in past Arizona surveys.

Both Kelly and McSally have been near the top of national Senate fundraising charts, so it is clear that each will have plenty of resources to communicate their specific campaign messages in addition to expected independent expenditures that will come into the state to aid and attack both candidates. It is already clear that the Arizona Senate race will become a national campaign.

At this point, the Grand Canyon State campaign looks to be the Democrats’ best conversion opportunity, and a victory for them becomes even more important to offset what is likely a predicted loss for Sen. Doug Jones (D) in Alabama. With the Democrats needing a net gain of at least three seats, or four depending upon the presidential race outcome, every swing seat becomes critical for both parties.

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New Poll: Jones vs. Sessions

By Jim Ellis

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

Jan. 8, 2020 — JMC Analytics and Polling just released their December statewide Alabama poll (Dec. 16-18; 525 likely Alabama voters) testing Sen. Doug Jones (D) against the Republican senatorial field including former senator and US attorney general Jeff Sessions.

Though JMC segmented demographics and geography within the polling universe they surprisingly did not identify partisan leanings. Therefore, it becomes difficult to see just how Republicans, Democrats, and Independents individually break and whether or not Sessions’ past public feud with President Trump is hurting him among GOP base voters.

The ballot test results, however, lead us to conclude that the former senator’s support within the Trump universe may be somewhat weak largely because he does no better than lesser known Republican candidates.

Sen. Jones is clearly the most vulnerable of the 11 Democratic incumbents standing for re-election in the 2020 cycle, not including Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey’s Democratic primary challenge from Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton). Considering that Republicans have a 53-47 advantage in the Senate and must defend 23 of the 35 in-cycle seats, re-taking Alabama is critically important to Republican majority goals.

According to the JMC data, Sessions would lead Sen. Jones, 46-41 percent, which is a credible showing for a Democrat in Alabama irrespective of incumbency. Pairing with the other Republican candidates produces similar results. Against former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville (R), Sen. Jones would trail 40-47 percent. If US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) were the GOP nominee, the spread would be 44-40 percent in the Republican’s favor.

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The North Carolina Filings

All the best for a wonderful holiday season.
Ellis Insight daily updates will return on Jan. 3, 2020.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 24, 2019 — Candidate filing in the Tar Heel State closed Friday, and the North Carolina political contestants are now set for the March 3 Super Tuesday state primary. In addition to the presidential race, North Carolina voters will choose nominees for governor, US Senate, 13 congressional races, the state constitutional offices, and state legislature.

No surprises came from the presidential filings, though 38 individuals filed to run for the nation’s highest office. Twenty of the 38 are minor party candidates, however. Fifteen Democrats are running, including all of the major contenders. President Trump draws Republican primary opposition from former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and Illinois ex-congressman Joe Walsh.

Sen. Thom Tillis sees only minor Republican primary opposition and now is a cinch for re-nomination. Businessman Garland Tucker was expected to run a competitive primary race but decided to end his effort prior to the filing deadline. When Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) was drawn out of a winnable district in the court-mandated redistricting plan, he began considering entering the Senate race. The congressman, however, ultimately decided to wait a cycle and looks to run for Sen. Richard Burr’s (R) open seat in 2022.

Five Democrats filed for the Senate, but the nomination battle is realistically between former state senator Cal Cunningham, who is the party leadership favorite, and state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston). The eventual Democratic nominee will face Sen. Tillis in what promises to be a competitive general election in a state that has defeated more incumbents in the modern political era than any other place.

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Senate – Early Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 19, 2019 — With candidate filing deadlines for the early primaries either passed or soon upcoming, it is a good time to review the Senate forecasts for the March through May state nomination campaigns.

MARCH

Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

• Alabama: A hot Republican primary will occur on Super Tuesday, March 3rd, featuring former US Attorney General and ex-senator Jeff Sessions attempting to regain the position he resigned to accept his appointment from President Trump.

The most recent polling suggests the primary will go to an April 14 run-off election, possibly between Sessions and retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), ex-state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 Senate nominee Roy Moore, along with state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) are also in the race and all but Mooney are still alive for the second run-off slot.

The eventual winner, assuming it is not Judge Moore who lost the special election after Sessions resigned, will be favored against Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election. Winning the Alabama race is critically important for Republicans to hold their majority.

• Arkansas: With the consensus Democratic candidate deciding to withdraw immediately after filing, the party is left without a challenger to first-term Sen. Tom Cotton (R). Though the state leadership could have chosen a new nominee in convention, the Arkansas Democratic chairman announced they are unable to field a candidate. Therefore, Sen. Cotton is a cinch for re-election facing only minor party opposition.

• Illinois: Sen. Dick Durbin (D) seeks a fifth term next year facing no primary competition on March 17, and only minor opponents for the fall campaign. In a full turnout presidential election year in a strongly Democratic state, Sen. Durbin is a sure winner in 2020.

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