Category Archives: State Legislatures

Ciattarelli, McAuliffe Win Respective Primaries for Governor in NJ, VA

Jack Ciattarelli , New Jersey

By Jim Ellis

June 9, 2021 — As expected, former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, and ex-New Jersey state assemblyman, Jack Ciattarelli, won their respective Democratic and Republican primaries for governor last night in the two states holding major 2021 elections.

McAuliffe will face Republican Glenn Youngkin, who was nominated in a May hybrid party convention, while Ciattarelli will challenge Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who seeks a second term.

Former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe

Virginia, which is the only state that limits its governors to one consecutive term, sees McAuliffe, also a former Democratic National Committee chairman, returning to the campaign trail after a break in service. He was governor from 2013-2017, yielding to current Gov. Ralph Northam (D) four years ago. In last night’s vote, McAuliffe captured 62.3 percent of the vote against four challengers including scandal tainted Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax who attracted less than 18,000 votes (3.5 percent) and finished a poor fourth.

When compared to the 2017 Democratic primary, the 2021 cycle turnout lagged. Once the final votes are posted, it will be clear that Democratic participation was down approximately 10 percent from four years ago. This is largely because the governor’s race was not particularly competitive. It has been a foregone conclusion for months that McAuliffe would easily capture the party nomination.

The lieutenant governor’s contest went to state Delegate Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge) as she defeated fellow state Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) 39-25 percent, in a field comprised of six candidates. The attorney general’s race was relatively close and showed weakness for incumbent Mark Herring as he defeated state Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk), 56-43 percent, a poor showing for a two-term incumbent in his own party. The primary result suggests that Herring could find himself in a general election battle with GOP nominee Jason Miyares, a state Delegate from Virginia Beach.

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NJ, VA Primaries Today

By Jim Ellis

June 8, 2021 — The two states with odd-numbered year elections in 2021 are holding their partisan primaries today, though one Old Dominion party has already nominated its statewide candidates. Voters in New Jersey and Virginia will choose nominees for governor and other elected statewide offices and for seats in their respective state legislatures.

Virginia Republicans, in a unique “drive-thru” convention, chose their gubernatorial nominee, Glenn Youngkin, on May 8. Nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general were also selected through the ranked choice voting system to narrow the field to a point where one candidate receives majority support after several rounds of counting.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is unopposed in the Democratic primary and former state assemblyman, Jack Ciattarelli, (pronounced: Chit-a-relli) is favored to capture the GOP nod after receiving official local Republican party endorsements in 17 of the state’s 21 counties. He faces businessman and frequent candidate Hirsch Singh, former Franklin mayor, Brian Levine, and pastor Phil Rizzo.

Virginia Democrats are expected to again back former governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe as their party nominee. He enjoys wide polling leads over former Prince William County state Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), scandal-tainted Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and state Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas).

Virginia is the only state in the Union that limits its governors to one four-year term but does not prevent former incumbents from seeking the office again as McAuliffe is doing. Many southern states historically installed a one-term limit for their governors, but Virginia remains the only place that maintains the practice. McAuliffe served from 2013 through 2017 before yielding to current incumbent Ralph Northam (D).

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Wisconsin Unable to Report
Yesterday’s Election Results

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

April 8, 2020 — Voting throughout the Badger State occurred yesterday as ordered, but the tabulation results can’t be released until April 13 under a previous court ruling. Therefore, even though the election is complete, we won’t know if former vice president Joe Biden or Sen. Bernie Sanders carried the day until next Monday.

Dating back in this COVID-19-spurred election scheduling controversy, Democrats quickly began urging Gov. Tony Evers (D) to initiate action with the legislature to postpone the presidential and statewide primary as a part of the virus precautions.

Gov. Evers failed to act swiftly and did not go to the legislature until late last week when the majority Republican leadership turned down his request to postpone the April 7 vote. Democratic Party leaders then went to court in an attempt to extend the absentee ballot deadline and were successful until the Republicans asked the US Supreme Court to step in and negate the timeline ruling.

The lower court directive that included the prohibition on reporting vote totals was consistent with the ruling to extend the absentee ballot return deadline, otherwise vote totals would be made public before a large number of individuals had cast their ballots.

In the meantime, Gov. Evers declared a state of emergency and attempted to unilaterally move the election to June 9. Republicans argued that a governor has no such power even under an emergency order and petitioned to the Wisconsin State Supreme Court to strike down the Evers move.

On Monday, both the US and Wisconsin Supreme Courts ruled that the election would continue under its present schedule with original deadlines. Interestingly, however, the SCOTUS did not reverse the entire lower court ruling, and the section about directing county clerks not to report the election returns until April 13 remained intact. Thus, a quirk in the high court decision is now causing an unnecessary delay in seeing the outcome of the presidential primary and the state Supreme Court judicial election, that latter of which is actually the centerpiece of this election and at the heart of the scheduling controversy.

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CA-25: Pondering Questions

By Jim Ellis

California Congressional District 25

March 24, 2020 — Political observers are asking many questions about the special election in California’s 25th Congressional District, the seat that former Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned late last year, particularly after seeing a new ballot test poll enter the public domain.

In the special California primary held on March 3, a dozen candidates, six Democrats and six Republicans, battled one another either to secure majority support or one of two runoff positions for the May 12 runoff vote. Under California election law, if a candidate attracts majority support, the individual would be elected outright to serve the balance of the current term. If not, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to a runoff election. It is the latter scenario that occurred here.

In addition to the special election, a second vote was held on March 3 for the regular succeeding term. In this contest, 13 candidates were on the ballot, the 12 aforementioned contenders along with Independent Otis Lee Cooper.

Not surprisingly, the two individuals finishing first in the special election also qualified for the general election. They are: freshman state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) and defense contractor and Iraq War veteran Mike Garcia (R). The election totals in the two contests are somewhat different, however.

The final totals are still not tabulated. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 313,739 ballots statewide remain uncounted with virtually no progress being made last week. In the 25th District, approximately 5,500 votes await counting in order to be added to the published totals. The final tabulation will not change the first- and second-place finisher status, however.

Interestingly, despite the special and regular vote being held at the same time and on the same ballot, almost 4,000 more people voted in the special election than in the regular primary. Percentage-wise, approximately 39 percent of the district’s registered voters cast a ballot in the special while 38 percent did so for the regular primary. Statewide, the turnout measured just under 45 percent of the registered voters for the regular primary that included a contested Super Tuesday presidential vote.

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Tuesday’s Election Reflection

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 7, 2019 — Kentucky’s GOP Gov. Bevin looses, Republican Reeves wins in Mississippi and state legislatures in New Jersey and Virginia are looking decidedly blue …

Kentucky

Gov. Matt Bevin (R), always lagging near the bottom of the 50-state gubernatorial approval polls throughout his term, lost his re-election bid to Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.

The vote totals fell within three-tenths of one percent, or an unofficial raw vote margin of 5,150 votes of 1.41 million votes cast. The Beshear victory spread translates into just 1.4 votes per precinct, statewide. Additionally, the Libertarian candidate in the race, Kyle Hugenberg, attracted over 46,000 votes, nine times greater than the spread between the two major party candidates.

The defeat appears to belong solely to Gov. Bevin, and not the Republican Party in general. The down-ballot Republicans scored a clean sweep, converting the attorney general’s office that Beshear held with 58 percent of the vote, and the secretary of state’s position (52 percent). GOP incumbents also were re-elected as state treasurer (61 percent), agriculture commissioner (58 percent), and auditor general (56 percent). With these hefty Republican percentages recorded for the other offices, it is clear that Gov. Bevin severely under-performed.

Political trouble for the governor became apparent when he won re-nomination last May with just 52 percent of the vote against little-known state Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) and two others. Bevin under-performed in the “coal country” area of the state, an area from which Goforth hails, and again fell below typical Republican vote patterns here in the general election, which evidently cost him the race. Mining healthcare issues became a problem for Bevin, and his position with regard to miner health benefits went a long way toward unseating him election night.

Andy Beshear was elected attorney general in 2015. His father, Steve Beshear (D), served the maximum two terms as governor prior to Bevin winning four years ago. Therefore, the Beshear name is extremely well known throughout Kentucky.

Voter turnout was up a whopping 45 percent above the 2015 odd-year election, though still significantly under presidential levels. In 2016, more than 1.9 million voters cast ballots in the presidential election.

Mississippi

The Mississippi voter patterns in the election were similar to Kentucky’s, except for the final result in the governor’s race.

In this contest, Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated four-term Attorney General Jim Hood (D), 52-46 percent, thus likely nullifying a federal court challenge to the state’s system of requiring that gubernatorial candidates carry a majority of state House of Representatives’ districts in addition to winning the popular statewide vote. Since Reeves recorded a clear majority in the popular vote, there will be no grounds for legal action.

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