Category Archives: Special ELection

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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NC Special Elections Decided Today

By Jim Ellis

North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District

Sept. 10, 2019 — Voters in eastern and south-central North Carolina will go to the polls today to fill the state’s two vacant congressional seats. The 3rd Congressional District is open because Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) passed away in February. The 9th District will finally get a representative after going vacant for this entire Congress. As we remember, the 2018 electoral result was not certified due to voter fraud allegations; hence, the calling of this new election.

North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District

The 3rd District, which includes the Outer Banks area that Hurricane Dorian recently hit, hosts the cities of Jacksonville, New Bern, and part of Greenville within the 17-county region. It should remain in Republican hands. The seat has performed strongly for the GOP, including a 60-37 percent win for President Trump in 2016. Jones represented the district since his original election in 1994, when he unseated then-Rep. Martin Lancaster (D) in the Republican landslide of that year. Rep. Jones averaged 74.5 percent of the vote in the four elections of the present decade.

The Republican special election nominee, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), is favored to defeat former Greenville mayor Allen Thomas, who won the Democratic nomination outright at the end of April. The latest available polling yielded a low double-digit lead for Murphy.

The 9th District begins in Charlotte, encompassing approximately 20 percent of Mecklenburg County, and continues to annex Union – the most Republican county and largest population entity – Robeson, Richmond, Scotland, and Anson counties along with parts of Cumberland and Bladen. The final county, Bladen, was the site of the voter fraud allegations in the last regular election.

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The Twists & Turns of Replacing
Georgia’s Sen. Johnny Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2019 — Political chatter about the new Georgia Senate race is becoming prevalent. As we know, last week Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R) announced that he will resign at the end of this year due to health problems. A great deal of speculation has occurred since, not only about who will be appointed to succeed the senator, but also who will run in the 2020 special election, and even about the election procedure, itself.

At this point, we know that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will name a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The selected individual will serve throughout 2020 and will likely run in the succeeding special election. The winner then serves the balance of the current term and would be eligible to run for a full six-year stint in the 2022 election.

The special is scheduled somewhat concurrently with the November 2020 general election. It’s possible, however, that the initial Nov. 3 vote will not immediately produce a winner, thus forcing an early January 2021 run-off. The candidates will first run in a jungle primary – that is, all contenders regardless of party designation appearing on the same ballot – and if no one receives a majority vote, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election to be held Jan. 5, 2021.

There is a potential scheduling nuance, however. Since the 2020 candidate filing deadline is March 6 for a May 19 regular primary and July 21 regular run-off, it is highly unlikely that the special election candidates will also file on that particular date. Therefore, if the candidate filing deadlines are different, will that allow individuals to run for an office in the 2020 regular cycle, and then simultaneously appear on the special US Senate election ballot? The question appears to be unanswered right now, and likely won’t be resolved until Gov. Kemp names his appointment and officially sets the election calendar.

The dual office speculation is beginning on the Democratic side because freshman Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) indicated yesterday that she is considering a potential Senate run. It would be assumed that the congresswoman would have to risk her House seat to run in the special, but is such the case? Since she, or anyone else, would already be filed for a race in 2020 before the Senate special filing deadline, does such status disqualify those candidates from entering the latter race?

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Succeeding Georgia’s Sen. Isakson

By Jim Ellis

Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R)

Aug. 30, 2019 — Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), first elected to the Senate in 2004 after spending six years in the US House and 18 years in the Georgia legislature, announced Wednesday that he will resign his seat at year’s end due to serious health problems.

The news stories have reported the details surrounding Isakson’s departure and his health status, but the succession situation will be the concentration of this update. The development means that both of Georgia’s Senate positions will be on the ballot in 2020. The two will run only semi-concurrently, however.

The first step is for Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to appoint a replacement for Sen. Isakson. The governor will install an interim senator to serve from Jan. 1 until the appointed individual or another is elected. It is believed that the governor will name his choice quickly so that the person will have a transition time to work with Isakson and his staff before assuming the office.

While Sen. David Perdue stands for a second term in the regular cycle, meaning a May 19, 2020 primary followed by a July 21 run-off if no candidate secures majority support in the initial vote, the special election will follow a different format and slightly altered schedule.

The regular general election is, of course, Nov. 3, 2020, but Georgia is also one of the few states that holds a post-election run-off in case no one receives majority support. That run-off will be held Jan. 5, 2021, but it is unlikely that the Perdue race would advance through to such a process regardless of who wins the November vote.

The Isakson seat, however, will not follow the same calendar or system. Since this is a special election called to fill the balance of the current term, which will last until the beginning of 2023, a jungle primary is to be held concurrently with the November election, and the top two individuals, regardless of political party affiliation, will advance to the Jan. 5 run-off if no one receives a majority vote in the first election. For this seat, the odds of seeing a run-off election intensify because a crowded field is expected, thus making it more difficult for any one individual to secure majority support.

One person who will not be competing is former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, the former state House Minority Leader. Abrams indicated that she will not be a Senate candidate in either seat next year, preferring to remain focused in her role of working with voter registration and turnout organizations.

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