Category Archives: Senate

Intra-Party Primary Challenges On Both Sides Emerge This Week

By Jim Ellis

July 3, 2019 — If you thought the 2020 cycle might feature a smaller number of primary challenge campaigns than we’ve seen in recent election years, then Monday might have changed your opinion. No less than six combined intra-party incumbent opposition campaigns were announced, or at least publicly contemplated.

After seeing the results of some key primaries in the past couple of election cycles, such as the now famous Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 2018 victory over veteran Rep. Joe Crowley in New York, it’s hard to discount any early intra-party candidate at face value. But, it appears, at least today, that all of the potentially challenged incumbents begin their re-nomination campaigns as clear favorites.

In South Dakota, state Rep. Scyller Borglum (R-Rapid City), an engineer and theologian who was just elected to the legislature in November, announced that she will oppose first-term senator and former governor Mike Rounds in next year’s Republican primary. This challenge is particularly curious since no Democrat has yet even come forward to battle Sen. Rounds. The odds of Borglum finding a way to deny her opponent re-nomination look particularly long, but the contest should be watched for indicative early happenings.

Rep. Danny Davis (D) has represented the downtown Chicago and Oak Park areas in Congress since the beginning of 1997. Before that, he served on the Chicago City Council or Cook County Commission for another 18 years. But his long service has not made him immune from enduring a primary challenge. Attorney Kristine Schanbacher announced her opposition to Davis in the March Democratic primary. The congressman is a prohibitive favorite to again win re-nomination. Two other minor Democratic candidates had declared earlier.

Indiana’s 3rd District will feature a “family affair.” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City/Ft. Wayne) largely won the safe Republican seat in the 2016 GOP primary against former Wisconsin state senator Pam Galloway and four others when he captured over one-third of the vote in a plurality victory scenario.

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He’s Baaaaaack!

By Jim Ellis

                      Judge Roy Moore

June 24, 2019 — As expected and despite urgings from President Trump not to do so, former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced his Senate 2020 candidacy late last week.

We will remember Judge Moore’s ill-fated 2017 special Senate election effort that resulted in Democrat Doug Jones becoming the first member of his party to win an Alabama Senate seat since Howell Heflin was last re-elected in 1990.

Even before the announcement, Moore and Sen. Richard Shelby (R) were again trading barbs. Judge Moore argued that Shelby’s involvement, which culminated in the senior senator saying he was placing “country before party,” led to Jones’ victory, while Shelby retorted that he still thinks “Alabama can do better,” in a reference about electing Judge Moore.

Arguably, Alabama is the most important Senate race on the 2020 election board. If the Republicans take back the seat, which is a must if they want to cement their hold on the majority, the Senate party division would increase to 54 Republicans. Looking at the remaining seats in play for the current election cycle it becomes increasingly difficult for the Democrats to reach majority status if they lose this race.

In 2017, Judge Moore, after defeating appointed incumbent Luther Strange 55-45 percent in a run-off election after placing first with 39 percent in the original special primary, was found to have attempted to date, or did date, between two and nine underage girls when he was a deputy district attorney in Etowah County some 40 years ago. The controversy likely cost Moore the election, a battle that he lost to Jones 50.0 to 48.3 percent.

The 2020 regular primary appears to feature a more difficult field of opponents for Moore than did the special election. Appointed Sen. Strange waded into his own batch of quicksand when allegations surfaced that he allegedly cut a deal with Gov. Robert Bentley (R) when the former man was Alabama’s attorney general and the state chief executive was being scrutinized for spending and utilizing state resources for his personal use.

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Wyoming: Political Picture
Will Take Time to Emerge

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Liz Cheney

June 19, 2019 — Sen. Mike Enzi’s (R) retirement announcement last month will ignite a political firestorm in the Equality State, but not just yet. Because the state is small and the candidate filing deadline is almost a year away (May 29), the races will take time to develop. Both the Senate campaign and at-large House contest, assuming we see an opening in the latter situation, will become major political battles, at least as far as the Aug. 18, 2020 Republican primary is concerned.

The focal point centers around at-large Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-Wilson/Jackson) intention. Should she run for the Senate, as most believe she will, her path to the nomination is likely to be encumbered. Her jumping into the Senate contest will also open Wyoming’s lone House seat for the second time in three election cycles.

In addition to Cheney, a former at-large US representative and ex-state treasurer is reported to be testing the waters for the Senate seat. Additionally, a two-term former governor is looming large on the political horizon.

Cynthia Lummis (R) served in the House for four terms after her original election in 2008 and did not seek re-election in 2016. Lummis averaged 64.8 percent in her four elections, and 68.8 percent in three re-elections as the incumbent. She served eight years as state treasurer, in addition to a combined 14 years in the Wyoming House and Senate. The former congresswoman is reportedly making calls to assess her chances and if she decides to enter the open Senate contest, we could see she and Cheney squaring off for the GOP nomination.

Billionaire Foster Friess, who finished a relatively close second in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary, is also being mentioned as a potential candidate. While not committing to the race, Friess has also not ruled out running.

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NC Poll: Tillis Vulnerable

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis (R)

May 29, 2019 — One of the key 2020 Senate races lies in North Carolina where first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R) is seeking his second term and finds himself in a shaky political situation. A new poll suggests he has vulnerability even within the Republican primary.

A WPA Intelligence poll for the Club for Growth PAC (May 19-21; 502 likely North Carolina Republican primary voters) finds Sen. Tillis leading a hypothetical GOP primary against three-term Rep. Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) wealthy businessman Garland Tucker, and accountant Sandy Smith, 40-17-11-2 percent. Though Tillis is below 50 percent, North Carolina election law requires only a 30 percent vote total to win nomination, meaning the senator would be well over the required minimum.

At this point, Tucker and Smith are announced Republican primary opponents, with the former having the potential of becoming a competitive candidate. Several weeks ago, Rep. Walker ruled out running for the Senate, but his latest statements appear to suggest that he is more open to entering the statewide campaign.

Isolating Sen. Tillis and Rep. Walker into a head-to-head contest, which is not realistic from a probable political perspective but is helpful in a polling context, finds Sen. Tillis leading 43-34 percent. But, WPA finds it takes little in the way of persuasion to arrive at a very different result.

According to poll results, when just the following bios are read, the ballot test virtually switches:

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Weekly Political Synopsis,
Period Ending May 17, 2019

By Jim Ellis

PRESIDENT
• Gov. Steve Bullock: As has been expected for some time, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) officially announced his presidential effort this week, becoming the 23rd Democratic candidate. Bullock made the argument that he will be an effective national candidate because he’s won two elections in a conservative state and has been able to earn legislative achievements, like Medicaid expansion, in negotiating with Republican leaders.

• Mayor Bill de Blasio: Following Gov. Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released an announcement video at the end of the week making him the 24th Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election cycle. His declaration centered around being the candidate for “working families,” and cited the $15 minimum wage, a free pre-K school program, a comprehensive healthcare program that especially covers mental health, and paid sick leave.

• Florida: Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to see strong polling numbers, with the latest data coming from Florida. The Tel Opinion Research organization is reporting its latest results (released May 8; 800 likely Florida Democratic primary voters) that show Biden pulling away from his Democratic opponents on an open-ended ballot test poll. An open-ended ballot test is one where the respondent is not given the candidates’ names. That approach tests for committed strength.
According to Tel Opinion, Biden leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 39-16 percent, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) each pulling only five percent support. South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg follows at three percent preference. All of the candidates scored well on the favorability index scale. Biden is viewed positively with an 81:13 percent ratio, where Sen. Sanders’ score is 68:23 percent.

SENATE
• Arizona: Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights released their latest data from their May 1-2 poll (600 likely Arizona voters) where they queried the respondent universe about the impending Senate race between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D). Though we are more than a year before Arizona’s 2020 late August primary, the chances are strong that the aforementioned will be their respective party standard bearers.
According to the OH poll results, the early race again earns toss-up status. The sample breaks 45-44 percent in Sen. McSally’s favor, which is virtually identical with the firm’s late February poll giving the incumbent a 46-44 percent edge.

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Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R)

May 7, 2019 — Four-term Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R), 75, announced from the Gillette City Hall building Saturday that he would not seek re-election next year and will end his career as the third longest-serving senator in state history.

In addition to what will be a 24-year tenure in Washington, Enzi has served in elected office in all but four years beginning in 1975. He was elected Mayor of Gillette in 1974, then to the state House of Representatives in 1986, the state Senate in 1991, and finally to the US Senate in 1996.

Sen. Enzi becomes the fourth in-cycle senator to announce his retirement, joining Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Tom Udall (D-NM). Wyoming, being one of the strongest Republican states in the country and even more so in a presidential election year, is heavily favored to remain in the GOP column.

Most of the succession speculation centers around at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson), the House Republican Conference chair and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Former Gov. Matt Mead (R), who just left office in January since Wyoming limits its governors to two consecutive terms, would obviously be another strong candidate if he were to run.

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Texas by the Numbers

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas


By Jim Ellis

May 2, 2019 — The Lone Star State continues to move toward competitiveness, meaning the Texas political apparatus will see new approaches from both parties in the 2020 election campaigns.

A new Emerson College poll (April 25-28; 779 likely Texas voters, 342 likely Democratic primary voters, 344 likely Republican primary voters via Interactive Voice Response system) finds President Trump tied with two of the Democratic presidential candidates and only slightly ahead of the rest of the field. And, in Democratic Party trial heats, the results project an equally close potential finish for the state’s 228 first ballot delegates.

According to the Emerson numbers, President Trump would slightly trail former Vice President Joe Biden with each man finishing in the 50 percent realm. Trump is then slightly ahead of Texas former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) but, here too, both men are in the 50 percent realm.

The president fares better against the others, but even they are within striking distance of him in what is arguably his most important state. With 38 Electoral Votes, Texas was the only big state that Republicans could count upon winning without having to campaign, but apparently those days are over.

The next closest Democrat is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He trails by two points, 51-49 percent. The president has healthier margins against Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, ahead of both, 54-46 percent, and tops Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 53-47 percent. The fact that all scenarios present no undecideds tells us the pollsters prodded respondents for a definitive answer or are extrapolating some of the results.

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