Ins, Outs and Maybes

By Jim Ellis

June 21, 2016 — Florida Rep. David Jolly (R-FL-13) announced Friday that he would officially end his US Senate bid and return to protect his seat in the House of Representatives. The move had been predicted for the past week.

With the state Supreme Court re-drawing his 13th CD to the Democrats’ liking, Rep. Jolly’s re-election prospects appeared dim so the Senate race looked to be a viable possibility. When the congressman announced, however, that he would no longer personally raise funds for his statewide effort, leaving that task to “staff and Super PACs”, it became clear that his Senate campaign would go nowhere.

When the city of St. Petersburg was added to District 13 in the mid-decade redistricting plan, party switching former Gov. Charlie Crist decided to enter the open congressional race as a Democrat. In the new configuration, President Obama averaged 55 percent of the vote in his two elections, up from breaking even here when the previous 13th was a statewide vote microcosm.

Crist is not popular and even many Democrats view him negatively, a common position for people who switch political parties. Therefore, seeing surveys such as one St. Pete Polls recently released (June 9, 746 registered FL-13 voters via automated response device) that project Crist and Jolly to be locked in a dead heat, the Republican incumbent began to show more interest in the race even though Democrats now have a clear advantage here.

Now believing his chances of winning an election are actually better in the House race than the Senate, Jolly is returning to wage a political battle back in his home base.

Alaska Senate

The Alaska Senate campaign delivered us another surprise over the weekend. As was commonly reported on the day Alaska major party candidate filing closed (June 1), former Anchorage mayor, Dan Sullivan (R), literally as the deadline was minutes from expiring, filed papers for a Republican primary challenge to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R). The former mayor shares the same name as Alaska’s other US Senator, who immediately endorsed Murkowski despite saying that Sullivan “has the greatest name in Alaska politics”.

As quickly as the former mayor jumped into the race, he has now backed out. Sullivan stated over the weekend that he is dropping his challenge to Sen. Murkowski, which will allow her to coast to re-nomination and re-election.

PA-9

When House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA-9) slipped past retired Coast Guard officer Art Halvorson in the April 26 Republican primary by 1,227 votes from almost 98,000 ballots cast, everyone assumed the congressman had secured his re-election. No Democrat had filed for the seat, so the Republican primary was going to be the deciding vote. This, however, may not yet be the case.

While Halvorson may have lost the Republican primary, he apparently won the Democratic nomination. In the voting process, Shuster’s GOP challenger actually attracted 1,069 Democratic primary write-in votes. This was 41 more votes than the next closest write-in candidate received.

According to Pennsylvania election law, a candidate receiving more than 1,000 votes in a congressional primary can qualify as that particular party’s nominee. Late last week, the Pennsylvania Secretary of State officially declared that Halvorson did receive enough write-in votes to win the Democratic primary. The retired Coast Guard officer and congressional candidate is deciding whether to accept the nomination, but his statement saying “I don’t think party is that big of a deal here (meaning central Pennsylvania),” suggests that he may well be leaning toward getting back into the race under a much different banner.

Should he run, such a challenge is unlikely to be successful. Halvorson was outspent in the primary by a 5:1 margin, only raising approximately $300,000.

Additionally, campaigning to the right of Rep. Shuster, as he did in both 2012 and ’14, will not be popular among Democrats voting in the 2016 general election. This is particularly true at the national level, hence the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) leadership who would be hard-pressed to support Halvorson after he launched continual attacks against Rep. Shuster for not being sufficiently conservative. Therefore, it is improbable that the DCCC or any outside labor organization or liberal Super PAC would target the race, thus Halvorson would likely be starved for campaign resources thus dooming him to another loss.

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