Category Archives: Special ELection

Today’s Election Scorecard

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 2, 2021 — Today is a significant Election Day, and the menu of races stretches beyond a Virginia governor’s race that has attracted the lion’s share of political attention.

While the VA governor’s race will of course be top of mind as results come in tonight and analysts attempt to assign precursor status to the contest regardless of the final result, other campaigns will also be of significance.

In the Virginia race, if Republican Glenn Youngkin scores an upset win, and the late indications are clearly moving his way, it may be cast as an affront to the Biden Administration and the Democratic majorities in Congress relating to their legislative agenda. In actuality, it is a more locally based issue, education, that should correctly be cast as the linchpin to describe a Youngkin victory.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) debate comment saying he did not believe “parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” will actually prove to be the key turning point to a Youngkin victory should it materialize. In McAuliffe wins, then the talk of a coming Republican wave election next year will certainly dissipate at least in the short term.

In addition to the Virginia governor’s race, the remainder of the statewide ticket, the lieutenant governor and attorney general races could be of significance. If Winsome Sears (R), running for lieutenant governor, and Jason Miyares (R), running for attorney general, both win their races to compliment a Youngkin victory, then talk of a clear precursor or budding Republican wave election will carry a more serious tone.

New Jersey voters will decide their governor’s contest as well. In Jersey, late polling, after seeing some closer numbers not even 10 days ago, seems to show Gov. Phil Murphy (D) pulling away from Republican Jack Ciattarelli in the closing week. The final result will likely be closer than most analysts would have projected at the beginning of the odd-numbered year election cycle, however.

In both Virginia and New Jersey, voters will also be electing members of the state legislature. In the Old Dominion, only the House of Delegates is on the ballot, as state senators, with their four year terms, won’t face the voters as a unit until the 2023 election cycle.

In the Garden State, both parties are projecting they will gain seats, but no one believes the strong Democratic majorities in the state Senate and Assembly are in any danger. In the Virginia House of Delegates, Republicans need to convert a net six seats to re-claim the majority they lost in the 2019 election.

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Brown, Carey Win In Ohio

Shontel Brown scored a convincing win in Ohio’s 11th District Democratic primary, virtually assuring her of a special general election victory on Nov. 2.

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2021 — Primary voters in two Ohio districts, for all intents and purposes, chose replacements Tuesday for resigned Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland) and Steve Stivers (R-Columbus).

County Councilwoman and Cuyahoga County Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown scored a convincing win in the 11th District Democratic primary, virtually assuring her of a special general election victory on Nov. 2 in a seat that is safe for her party. Ohio Coal Association chairman Mike Carey did likewise in the 15th District Republican primary that occupies much of the Buckeye State’s southern sector.

Despite polling showing Brown trailing former state Sen. Nina Turner but consistently gaining momentum, it was obvious that the winner’s campaign peaked at precisely the right time. With 75,064 people voting in the Democratic primary, Brown scored a 50.2 – 44.5 percent victory. The other 11 candidates split the remaining 5.3 percent.

The 11th District contains most of the city of Cleveland in Cuyahoga County and part of Akron in Summit County. Brown’s Cuyahoga total percentage spread of 50.4 – 44.1 almost exactly mirrored the district-wide vote. Conversely, Turner scored a very tight 48.8 – 40.0 percent plurality in Summit County, a difference of just 54 votes.

Turner, the former national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign attracted support from the Democratic socialist movement, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and the Justice Democrats PAC. She began the campaign as almost a prohibitive favorite, leading by a 50-15 percent margin in a late May Tulchin Research organization survey. Once the final financial totals are known, it will be clear that Turner outspent the winner by a better than 2:1 margin.

Brown, receiving backing from the more establishment-oriented Democrats including House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the Congressional Black Caucus, and former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, among others, began to chip away at the former state legislator’s lead about six weeks before the election and made steady gains through the closing period as polling highlighted.

The race’s most recent survey, from the Mellman Group (July 13-17; 400 OH-11 likely voters), gave Turner only a 41-36 percent advantage. A poll generally scoffed at in early July, from the Republican firm TargetPoint, found the two candidates tied at 33 percent. In the end, it was TargetPoint that proved closest to the final mark.

On the Republican side, with just 5,299 voters participating, community activist Laverne Gore was an easy winner, capturing 74 percent support. The Nov. 2 special election is now just a formality in the heavily Democratic district, however, and Brown can count on being sworn into the House toward the end of this year.

In his victory speech, 15th District Republican primary winner Mike Carey gave a large portion of the credit to former President Donald Trump who endorsed him in a crowded field of eleven candidates. “Tonight, the voters of the 15th Congressional District sent a clear message to the nation that Donald J. Trump is, without a doubt, the clear leader of our party,” Carey began his victory speech before his victory party supporters.

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Ellzey’s Upset Win in TX-6

Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) tallied an upset win in the TX-6 special election Tuesday.

By Jim Ellis

July 29, 2021 — Texas state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) tallied an upset win in the TX-6 double-Republican special runoff election Tuesday, defeating the race’s nominal favorite, Susan Wright, widow of the late Congressman Ron Wright (R-Arlington).

While polling and endorsements suggested a Wright victory – the most recent public poll from American Viewpoint released last week projected Wright holding a 10-point, 44-34 percent, advantage – the Ellzey win should be viewed as a mild upset. This is the third election in the four in which Rep-Elect Ellzey was a candidate where he considerably exceeded expectations.

Jake Ellzey, an airline pilot, rancher, and Iraq and Afghan War veteran, first came on the political scene with a surprising second-place finish in the 2018 open seat 6th District congressional primary, forcing then-Tarrant County Tax Assessor Wright into a secondary runoff election. Mr. Wright was viewed as a clear favorite in the follow-up vote but managed only a 52-48 percent win, with Ellzey again out-performing polling and projections. He then immediately came back an easily won an open seat primary and general election in a safe Republican state House of Representatives district.

When Rep. Wright passed away, the special election drew 23 candidates including Ms. Wright and state Rep. Ellzey. Local forecasters were expecting Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez to secure a runoff position against Ms. Wright, possibly even perhaps finishing in first position, but Ellzey again surprised the analysts by edging Sanchez for second place. In the underdog role again, Ellzey recorded a 53-47 percent win.

Several noteworthy points came from the race. First, turnout was very low, only a 38,994 unofficial participation figure. This compares to 78,374 cast ballots in the special jungle primary for a drop-off rate of just over 50 percent. Considering that this was a double-Republican runoff and Democrats had little reason to vote since they had no candidate, such a small return voter figure is not particularly surprising.

Second, the early vote and election day vote proportion were virtually identical. Both Rep. Ellzey and Ms. Wright doubled their early vote total almost exactly. Conversely, in the jungle primary, Ellzey recorded over 70 percent of his total vote in the early phase, while Ms. Wright drew only 42 percent of her aggregate share from those voting prior to election day. Therefore, Ellzey significantly improved his election day operation.

Third, the big change from the jungle primary to the runoff election was the vote from Tarrant County, the district’s largest local entity. In the initial election, Ms. Wright ran strong in rural Navarro County and Ellzey did likewise in his home county of Ellis. This pattern remained consistent Tuesday night.

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TX-6 Special Election Today

By Jim Ellis

Susan Wright, favored in today’s TX-6 special election

July 27, 2021 — The late Texas US Rep. Ron Wright’s (R-Arlington) replacement will be chosen today as the double-Republican special congressional runoff election draws to a conclusion. The late congressman’s widow, Susan Wright (R), is favored over state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie), but low turnout elections often produce surprising results.

From a partisan context, the race is anti-climactic since we already know a Republican will claim the seat and expand the House Republican conference total to the 212 mark. Democrats hold 220 seats.

Two more vacant House seats will largely be decided next Tuesday when voters in two Ohio districts will go to the polls in partisan primary contests. In each case, winning the party nomination is virtually tantamount to claiming the seat, so it is highly likely that the two parties will split the elections. The Ohio nominees, however, will have to wait until Nov. 2 for their final vote. The special election season will conclude on Jan. 11, 2022, when South Florida voters will choose a successor to the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Delray Beach) in the state’s 20th District.

As is generally the case in special elections, voter turnout is the critical factor. The Texas Secretary of State has released the 6th District early voting participation numbers, and we see 20,534 ballots having been cast through July 23. In the May 1 jungle primary election, 45,259 people voted early, or 57.7 percent of the total voting universe for that election (78,471).

So far in this runoff, only 4.2 percent of the registered voter universe of 493,077 individuals have cast their ballot. Considering that 65.4 percent of Ellzey’s vote came via early voting in the special primary as compared to 47.2 percent for Wright, the low early totals should prove a benefit to the latter candidate.

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NM-1: A Pattern?

By Jim Ellis

Albuquerque, New Mexico-anchored NM-1 Congressional District

June 4, 2021 — Several media reports — typified by an MSNBC website analysis article that Steve Benen authored after Tuesday’s New Mexico special election — are trying to make the point that Melanie Stansbury’s landslide victory is a potential benchmark for future Democratic victories. Such a conclusion is a stretch.

The two-pronged premise is that Stansbury was so strong that she even ran ahead of President Biden’s performance in the district, and that the Republican campaign’s emphasis on the crime problem and the national effort to defund the police proved a political failure.

While Stansbury, a two-term state representative, scored a 60-36 percent win in the Albuquerque anchored congressional district that former Rep. Deb Haaland (D) resigned to become US Interior Secretary, her performance is not unusual. In fact, her vote total was less than two points above the mean average Democratic congressional percentage since the party converted the seat from the Republicans back in 2008.

To the argument that Stansbury’s victory margin was larger than President Biden’s 60-37 percent spread against then-President Trump, and it was only one percentage point better, it is not unusual for a House campaign to outperform the top of the ticket. In most instances, the congressional winner is better known than his or her competitor, has greater funding and outside support, and is consistently in position to overwhelm the opposition. Such is rarely the case in a national presidential campaign or in a major statewide contest for senator or governor.

The crime issue was certainly a focal point of Republican nominee Mark Moores, an Albuquerque state senator. The national party, however, did very little to support Moores, virtually conceding the race from the outset based upon the voting history here for more than a decade.

For an underdog candidate in Moores position, emphasizing the crime issue, on paper, made sense as a point of attack. Albuquerque, according to FBI statistics has the ninth worst violent crime statistics in the country, meaning 1,352 crimes per 100,000 residents according to the latest available figures (2019). To put this number in perspective, Chicago, which has drawn much national media attention for its high murder rate, ranks 31st on the same scale, at 943 crimes per 100,000 city residents.

Perhaps one reason the crime issue did not propel the Moores candidacy is there was no serious effort to defund the Albuquerque Police Department, nor is there the sharp racial tension that is present in some of the cities where we saw serious problems along with a local movement to reorder policing.

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Stansbury Wins New Mexico Special

By Jim Ellis

New Mexico state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D), winner of Tuesday’s special election.

June 3, 2021 — The New Mexico special election went as expected Tuesday, as state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque) defeated state Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) by a 60-36 percent count, which is consistent with the partisan early vote turnout.

The overall participation factor exceeded 131,000 voters, or 28.2 percent of the district’s registered voter universe, which is relatively high for a special election. It appears that over 70 percent of the people participating in the electoral contest cast an early ballot.

Stansbury, twice elected to the state House of Representatives, was victorious in the special Democratic district convention whose delegates were empowered with choosing a party nominee to replace resigned Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque). Haaland vacated the House upon being confirmed as US Interior Secretary in the Biden cabinet.

The Stansbury congressional victory margin came from population-dominant Bernalillo County, where more than 90 percent of the CD-1 residents live. Stansbury captured 61 percent of the vote here. In the smaller rural counties, Moores took three of four, but the aggregate vote total from each of those entities was individually less than 2,500 cast ballots.

The Democratic mean average in the seat since partisan conversion in 2008 is 58.2 percent, so Stansbury ran about two points above the benchmark. The state’s current governor, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, represented the 1st District for three terms and scored the single-highest Democratic election percentage during the 13-year post-conversion period. She tallied 65.1 percent in 2016, the same election in which Hillary Clinton posted a 52-35 percent CD-1 result and 48-40 percent statewide.

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NM-1 Special Election Tuesday

New Mexico state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D)

By Jim Ellis

June 2, 2021 — The latest in the series of special elections to fill US House vacancies was held yesterday, and the race has an obvious favorite.

On the ballot: state Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-Albuquerque); state Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque); ex-Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, a former Republican who is running as an Independent; and Libertarian Party nominee Chris Manning.

The major parties nominated their candidates in special convention soon after incumbent Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) resigned to accept her appointment as Interior Secretary in President Biden’s cabinet.

Rep. Stansbury prevailed in a close multi-candidate Democratic convention, ultimately defeating state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Albuquerque) in a final round of delegate voting. Many believed winning the Democratic convention was tantamount to claiming the special election. Sen. Moores was an easy winner on the Republican side.

All indications pointed to a Stansbury victory, which is what played out last evening. The only recent publicly released poll before yesterday’s election, one that RRH Elections conducted (May 18-21; 555 likely NM-1 voters, interactive voice response system), found the Democratic nominee holding a 49-33 percent lead over Moores.

Secondly, the district has moved sharply to the left over the past decade, as the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections suggest. In the ’16 campaign, Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump here, 52-35 percent. This past November, the Biden margin over ex-President Trump soared to 60-37 percent. The last Republican to represent the 1st District was former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque) who left the House in 2008 to run unsuccessfully for US Senate.

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