Category Archives: Special ELection

Open Seat Round-up

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 31, 2019 — With six US House seats coming open in October, it’s a good time to re-set where the incumbent-less districts stand for the next election.

To review the half-dozen October happenings in this regard, in consecutive order Reps. Nita Lowey (D-NY) announced her retirement, Elijah Cummings (D-MD) passed away, Francis Rooney (R-FL) declared that he would not seek re-election, Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) decided not to make another congressional run in order to concentrate on her presidential campaign, Katie Hill (D-CA) resigned in scandal, and Greg Walden (R-OR) released his statement saying he will not seek a 12th term in office.

Within the aggregate group of 30 opens, we now see four vacancies. In addition to Rep. Cummings passing away and Hill resigning, two more seats are also headed to special elections because of resignations. Those lie in New York (Chris Collins-R) and Wisconsin (Sean Duffy-R).

Two of the four have election calendars. The MD-7 seat will see a primary on Feb. 4 with a general April 28. The WI-7 district will hold a primary on Feb. 18, and a special general on May 12. Govs. Andrew Cuomo (NY) and Gavin Newsom (CA) will soon set special voting calendars in their states. Gov. Cuomo, who let the 25th District sit vacant for almost a year in 2018 after Rep. Louise Slaughter passed away, chose to fill the seat concurrently with the regular election cycle. The governor has already said he would like to follow the same course this year, but the law won’t allow such a long vacancy.

At this point, the Wisconsin and New York seats should remain Republican, but the GOP has a spotty record in holding NY districts in special elections including this 27th District (then numbered 26), which went Democratic that last time it went to special election in 2011. The Maryland seat will remain Democratic.

Though the House opens now reach 30 seats, a relative few are seriously in play for the districts’ next election. Of the majority Democrats’ nine open seats, seven are considered safe and the next Democratic nominee is a lock to win in each circumstance. For the GOP, which currently holds 21 of the 30, a total of 13 will assuredly elect another Republican.

In terms of competitive seats, the Democrats only risk two. The Hill seat in California is marginal and certainly competitive in an open special election. Democrats have carried the district in two of the last three presidential elections, but Republicans have won three of the four congressional elections in the current configuration during the decade.

The other is IA-2, the seat from which Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) is retiring. The 2nd District is generally reliably Democratic, but President Trump carried it in 2016, 49-45 percent. Democrats are coalescing behind former state Senator and 2018 lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart as their candidate. It is here where former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling (R), hopes to make a serious run at an upset. First, however, he must clear the GOP primary and faces state Sen. Marianette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa) who will be making her fourth run for the US House.

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MD-7: Succeeding Rep. Cummings

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore)

Oct. 21, 2019 — The death of veteran Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore) just days ago, on Oct. 17, creates an obvious vacancy in Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which is anchored in the city of Baltimore. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has a defined window to schedule the replacement special election for the late congressman, who was first elected in a 1996 special vote.

Cummings passed away in Baltimore, where he had been hospitalized at Johns Hopkins University’s medical facility. It is presumed that Gov. Hogan will wait until after the mourning period to schedule the special election, but he must act within 10 days of the occurred vacancy. The primary must be held within 65 days of the call date, with a special general election following within 65 days after the primary election date in order to comply with Maryland election law.

The calendar means the primary must be scheduled on or before Dec. 31 with the entire special cycle completed on or before March 5. Since the Maryland 2020 primary is scheduled for April 28, the 7th District special election must, therefore, be a stand-alone vote in order to meet the state’s mandated timetable.

Maryland employs a closed primary system, so Cummings’ congressional successor will be decided in the Democratic primary. The district has a Democratic Party registration figure of 68.3 percent, compared to Republicans’ 15.9 percent, and “Unaffiliated” 14.5 percent. Segments of under 3,300 people apiece belong to the Libertarian, Green, and other parties. Early voting will be in effect for the special election. Under state law, the early voting period begins the second Thursday prior to the election and ends the immediate Thursday before.

The district houses almost 60 percent of Baltimore city, in addition to encompassing over half of Howard County and just under a quarter of Baltimore County. The 7th shares Baltimore city with the 3rd (Rep. John Sarbanes) and 2nd CDs (Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger). The seat is majority African American/black, registering 53.6 percent of the demographic unit within the district confines as compared to the white population of 33.4 percent. Asians represent seven percent of the constituency, and Latinos just under four percent.

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The Politics of Scheduling

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 4, 2019 — Earlier, it was reported that Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) is going to re-schedule the special election to replace resigned Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau), and now we have more information.

At first glance, we see an instance where a state election law conflicts with a federal statute, which national government officials apparently brought to the governor’s attention after he made public the original voting schedule. Wisconsin special election law creates a 28-day period between special primary and general, while the federal MOVE Act, designed to provide some uniform structure for overseas and military voters stationed abroad, mandates at least 45 days be placed between elections.

The governor is reportedly looking at two scenarios, and both will move the special cycle to a much later time frame. Instead of Jan. 27, the original special general date (the special primary was slated for Dec. 30), the new general will likely either be concurrent with the April 7 presidential and statewide primary, or May 5. Due to the federal law requirements and the current state election calendar, the governor cannot schedule both the special primary and general to coincide with the already-set state election timetable.

Now for the politics: Wisconsin has a regular statewide election in the early part of the even-numbered year where judges and many local officials are elected in addition to other selected officeholder positions. In this particular April 7 election, the same day as the presidential primary, Republican state Supreme Court Judge Dan Kelly is running for a full 10-year term. Key Democratic leaders counseled the governor to schedule the election early so a large Republican turnout from a strong Republican congressional district did not hurt the party’s effort to unseat the high court judge.

On the other hand, Democratic turnout is likely to be very large on April 7 because voters are coming to participate in the presidential primary. Using this reasoning, the Democrats’ chances of upsetting the GOP in the special congressional election would be much greater even though the seat has performed well for the Republicans throughout this decade.

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Collins Resigns; Thornberry to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)

Oct. 2, 2019 — Reportedly planning to plead guilty to an insider trading charge after being indicted last year, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) resigned his seat in the House, officially informing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) Monday of his intentions.

Despite having an indictment hanging over his head, Rep. Collins won a close re-election in NY-27 — normally a safe Republican upstate district that occupies all or parts of eight counties in the region’s rural area east of Buffalo and south of Rochester.

The congressman defeated Democrat Nate McMurray, a Grand Island town supervisor, by a razor-thin 49.1 – 48.8 percent spread, a margin of just 1,087 votes. Clearly the indictment played a major role in the outcome being so close, as Collins’ re-election percentages were an identical 67.2 percent in 2014 and 2016 after unseating then-Rep. Kathy Hochul (D) in the 2012 general election.

Anticipating an open seat or a weakened Collins seeking re-nomination, several Republicans had already announced their intentions to run. Two state senators, Chris Jacobs (R-Buffalo) and Rob Ortt (R-Lockport), are already in the race as is attorney and former town judge Beth Parlato. The 2018 Democratic nominee, McMurray, is also a declared candidate.

It is likely that other Republicans will jump into either the special election, if it is called, or the regular election now that it is an open seat race. It is also likely that Democratic leaders will make sure that McMurray has a clean shot for re-nomination in order to make him as strong as possible against a different GOP nominee.

The New York state primary is scheduled for June 23. The eventual GOP nominee should begin as a favorite to hold the seat.
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North Carolina Polling Review:
Under-Estimating the GOP Vote

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2019 — The recent North Carolina special elections’ polling appears slightly flawed, containing a pattern that came to the forefront in the previous presidential race. The weakness: under-estimating the Republican vote. Doing so became a major discussion point within the research community after they cumulatively missed the 2016 Trump-Clinton race but did not regularly appear in most of the subsequent midterm campaigns.

In the two North Carolina special elections that were decided on Tuesday night, the winning Republican candidates exceeded the published polling projections. The same pattern also occurred in Pennsylvania back in late May when Rep. Fred Keller (R-Middleburg), while predicted to win comfortably, garnered a considerably larger vote percentage than projected when he scored a 68 percent special election victory.

Four different polls were publicly released during the week preceding Tuesday’s North Carolina elections. Only RRH Elections sampled the 3rd District and tested the eventual winner, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), against former Greenville mayor, Allen Thomas. The polling result projected Murphy to a 51-40 percent lead. He won 62-37 percent, meaning RRH under-estimated Murphy’s strength and over-estimated Thomas’.

The survey was conducted during the Aug. 26-28 period, two full weeks before the election, which means the situation on the ground could have certainly changed during the intervening time between the poll and the vote. Advertising was heavy during the campaign’s final two weeks, and the survey could not account for which campaign would be more adept at turning out its vote.

Three polls, from three different survey research firms, were released for the more competitive 9th CD at irregular times, and here RRH was the closest to the actual result. Their study was also conducted over the Aug 26-28 period, and it correctly forecast a close Dan Bishop win. At the time, RRH saw a 46-45 percent spread in favor of Bishop over Democrat Dan McCready, and the actual result was 50.7 – 48.7 percent.

Harper Polling, also testing during the same Aug. 26-28 span, missed. They projected McCready to be holding a five point, 51-46 percent advantage. At the time, we mentioned that their sample contained 56 percent female respondents, which could have been a major reason for the Democratic skew.

The final poll from a lesser known firm, co/efficient, also came very close to the actual result, projecting a 44 percent tie between the two candidates over a much later Sept. 5-6 period, but this result may have come through happenstance.

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