Tag Archives: Kathaleen Wall

Tuberville, Sessions & Sessions;
Moore, Hegar & Valenzuela

By Jim Ellis

Former Auburn Football coach Tommy Tuberville (center) overwhelms Jeff Sessions in Alabama.

July 15, 2020 — The Texas and Alabama runoffs were held yesterday along with the postponed Maine primary, and we have some winners and cliff hangers.

In Alabama, retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, as expected, pretty much demolished former US attorney general and ex-Alabama senator Jeff Sessions last night with the margin of victory being larger than expected. Though earlier polls had predicted spreads as large as 22 points, a 61-39 percent Tuberville victory margin was not forecast even though every pollster found the former coach leading the race. The Tuberville victory was so complete that Sessions, a man who ran unopposed in his previous Senate re-election campaign (2014), was limited to winning only three counties.

Tuberville advances into the general election to face incumbent Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones, who won a special election in 2017 ironically to replace Sessions after he was appointed to his Trump Administration position. Early polling suggests Tuberville will open the general election with a discernible lead over Sen. Jones in what will likely be a top-three state for President Trump.

Alabama hosted two significant Republican runoff elections last night, both of which almost assuredly identified a pair of new congressmen. In the Mobile-anchored 1st District, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl topped former state senator Bill Hightower, 52-48 percent, and will easily win the general election in November. In the adjoining 2nd District, despite being outspent by a 5:1 ratio, former state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) easily defeated moving company owner Jeff Coleman who finished first in the regular primary.

Moore scored a 60-40 percent win over Coleman who dropped more than $1 million of his own money into his campaign and earned retiring Rep. Martha Roby’s (R-Montgomery) endorsement. Moore ran as a Trump Republican and mixed his campaign message with attacks on DC and clever issue targeting. He did not run a negative race against Coleman who had been attacked in the primary. Coleman attracted 38 percent on March 3 but could only expand his runoff vote to 40 percent. Moore, on the other hand, who barely qualified for the runoff – just 591 votes ahead of third place finisher Jessica Taylor – was able to build a winning runoff coalition of 60 percent as compared to his 20 percent in the primary.

Turning to the Texas Senate Democratic runoff, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar defeated state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) by only about 40,000 votes statewide with further precincts to count. Hegar was mathematically projected the winner, but her margin could continue to shrink once the final tabulations are calculated and reported. She will now challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R) in a race that should break the incumbent’s way by a comfortable margin in November.

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Runoff Review – Part II

Map of US Congressional districts in Texas

By Jim Ellis

March 26, 2020 — With Gov. Greg Abbott (R) moving the Texas runoff election date, it has drastically changed the short-term Lone Star State political scene. At the end of last week, Abbott transferred the post-primary runoff election date from May 26 to July 14 in consideration of COVID-19 virus precautions.

Statewide, the US Senate Democratic primary is headed to a runoff election, as well as 15 different congressional campaigns.

In the Senate race, retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar, who held Rep. John Carter (R-Georgetown) to a 51-48 percent re-election victory in 2018, placed first in the Democratic primary with 22.4 percent of the vote, but a long way from the 50 percent plateau a candidate needs to claim a party nomination. She will face state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) who slipped into second place by just over a percentage point in the 12-candidate field. Sen. Royce scored 14.5 percent statewide.

The eventual nominee faces three-term Sen. John Cornyn (R), who easily secured re-nomination in his Republican primary (76 percent over four opponents). The longer runoff cycle should typically help the second place finisher, since the individual has more time to change the campaign’s flow. In this case, however, the Democratic nominee, who already starts as a severe underdog to Sen. Cornyn, would lose valuable general election time with the later runoff, thus making the task of overcoming the incumbent even more formidable.

Of the 15 House runoffs, nine are viable to some degree. The six that are not lie in districts that are safe for one party or the other. For example, it matters little which Democrat wins the 13th District runoff (Trump ’16: 79.9 percent), or who eventually becomes the victorious Republican in the 18th CD secondary vote (Clinton ’16: 76.5 percent).

Rep. Van Taylor’s (R-Plano) north Texas seat is typically thought of as safely Republican, but his 54 percent win percentage in 2018 was considerably below the average GOP vote. Two attorneys, Sean McCaffity and Lulu Seikaly will now do battle until July 14 to see who faces Rep. Taylor in his first re-election bid. The two were virtually tied in the Democratic primary, 44.5 – 43.7 percent, with the slight edge going to McCaffity. Rep. Taylor will be the decided favorite in November.

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US House Open Seat Status

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2019 — With US House retirements coming in bunches, it can be confusing to remember how many open seats currently exist for the 2020 cycle and where they stand in terms of political projections. Now that the two North Carolina special elections have been decided, it is a good time to review the future open seat contests.

As things currently stand, 20 seats are known to be open, including the WI-7 seat that Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) will resign from next week. Of the 20, only four seats are Democratic, meaning the remaining 16 belong to the Republicans.

Most of the districts are safe – likely 14 of the 20 – and are projected to remain with the succeeding incumbent party nominee. The remaining six either lean to one party or the other (4) or are already cast in the toss-up category (2).

At this point, 13 of the 14 least competitive seats are in the safe category with one in the Likely segment:

Safe D:

  • CA-53: Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego) – retiring
  • NM-3: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe) – running for Senate
  • NY-15: Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) – retiring

Safe R:

  • AL-1: Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) – running for Senate
  • AL-2: Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) – retiring
  • IL-15: Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) – retiring
  • KS-1: Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) – running for Senate
  • MI-10: Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden/Macomb County) – retiring
  • TX-11: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Midland) – retiring
  • TX-17: Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan/Waco) – retiring
  • UT-1: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) – retiring
  • WI-5: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menominee Falls) – retiring
  • WI-7: Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) – resigning for family reasons

Likely R:

  • IN-5: Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) – retiring

The most competitive seats are as follows:

Lean D:

  • IA-2: Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) – retiring

Lean R:

  • MT-AL: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) – running for Governor
  • TX-22: Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) – retiring
  • TX-24: Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell) – retiring

Toss-Up:

  • GA-7: Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) – retiring
  • TX-23: Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) – retiring

Analysis

  • GA-7: This district produced the closest raw vote margin in the country last year, as Rep. Rob Woodall was re-elected with just a 417-vote spread over former state Senate budget director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D), who returns to run again in 2020.
    Bourdeaux, however, will not have the nomination field to herself. Six other Democrats have filed, including state Sen. Zahra Karinshak (D-Duluth), state Rep. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross), and former Fulton County commission chairman John Eaves. Nine Republicans are in the race including state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and former Atlanta Falcons football player Joe Profit.
    This race will have to gel after the primary in order to obtain a better read on how the political contest will ultimately end. It appears both parties are headed to run-off elections to settle upon a nominee. The Georgia primary is May 19, with a run-off, if necessary, scheduled for July 21.
  • TX-23: No matter who the major party candidates turn out to be, the 2020 TX-23 race will end in a razor-thin margin. The highest percentage attained by a winning candidate throughout the current decade is 50.3 percent in 2012, and no one has won with a majority since. With each major party nominee virtually assured of a percentage in the high 40s, this will be a competitive race regardless of who eventually advances into the general election.
    Grace Ortiz Jones, the 2018 Democratic nominee who came within 926 votes of unseating Rep. Will Hurd, returns to run again. She has a strong chance of becoming a consensus candidate. Republicans will likely have a contested primary and possibly a run-off. This race, in a district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, will go down to the wire before it is ultimately decided.
  • MT-AL: Republicans should have an advantage here in a presidential year, as Montana figures to be one of President Trump’s strongest states in 2020. Two Republicans elected statewide, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and state auditor and 2018 US Senate nominee, Matt Rosendale, are competing for the open seat in a field of five candidates to date.
    Democrats look to have strong candidates, as well. Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, who held Rep. Greg Gianforte to a 51-46 percent win last November, returns for another try. Her Democratic opponents are state Rep. Tom Winter (D-Missoula) and rancher Matt Rains.
  • TX-22: Rep. Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land) is retiring after four terms from a district that is becoming much more competitive. The minority complexion is now high, with the non-Hispanic white percentage dropping to 45.9 percent among citizens of voting age. Six Republicans have announced with possibly wealthy donor and conservative activist Kathaleen Wall, who ran in the 2nd District open seat in 2018, could be the person to beat.
    Democrats are likely to back 2018 nominee Sri Preston Kulkarni, who held Rep. Olson to a 51-46 percent win. Expect this race to be a major battleground House campaign, and though the district is clearly changing, the GOP still maintains at least a slight advantage.
  • TX-24: Veteran Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell), who had a close call last November with a 51-47 percent win against an opponent who didn’t even spend $100,000, decided to retire after serving what will be eight terms. Republicans appear to be coalescing behind former Irving mayor, Beth Van Duyne, who will be a credible and energetic candidate.
    Democrats already have a crowded field that already features six candidates. The early favorite for the party nomination is retired Air Force colonel and 2018 state agriculture commission nominee Kim Olson, who lost her statewide campaign, 51-46 percent, which is one of the stronger Democratic showings in the recent past. The 24th will host another Texas competitive contest in 2020, but the seat still leans the Republicans’ way.
  • IA-2: The only competitive Democratic open seat that could come into play is Iowa’s southeastern district. With seven-term Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) retiring, Democrats are coalescing around former state senator and lieutenant governor nominee Rita Hart.
    Republicans appear to have their own consensus candidate, former Illinois Rep. Bobby Schilling, who served one term after winning the 2010 election in the Rock Island/Moline district across the Mississippi River from the Iowa border. Several years later, Schilling moved to Iowa and now is looking to revive his short-lived political career.
    Democrats have a clear advantage here, but in this open seat where the candidates already appear set and President Trump outpolled Hillary Clinton, a meaningful campaign could develop.

The Texas Primary Results

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2018 — The 2018 election cycle’s first regular primary results are in the books, and the Texas electorate largely performed in its typical fashion last night.

Democrats were citing that their primary turnouts would be much higher this year in anticipation of a more competitive 2018 general election cycle; however, the party turnout was substantially better than in the 2014 midterm election (almost double the participation factor), it was still only two-thirds of their 2016 presidential total.

(To see full-size results graphic below, please click on image; partial results shown.)
325-2018-Texas-Primary-Results-graphicDespite the increase, just 6.8 percent of the state’s more than 15 million registered voters cast a ballot in this year’s Democrat primary. Adding the Republican vote, the primary registered only a 17 percent total turnout, again making the state one of the lowest in terms of party primary participation.

This year, 60 percent of those voting chose to cast a Republican ballot, down from the 71 percent in the last midterm and the 68 percent total from the 2016 presidential race. But, in the 17 Republican congressional districts where both sides fielded contested primaries, in only one CD, Rep. Will Hurd’s 23rd District, did more Democrats vote than Republicans.

As expected, both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) easily captured their party nominations for the US Senate campaign. Sen. Cruz recorded an 85.3 percent vote total among Republicans, while 61.8 percent of Democrats chose Rep. O’Rourke. Since both men exceeded the 50 percent plus one vote majority figure, each advances to the general election.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott racked up a 90.4 percent win in the GOP primary, while Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez (42.9 percent) and businessman Andrew White (27.4 percent) must now duel in a May 22 run-off election to decide the Democrat nomination.

In the eight open congressional races, three featured outright winners. In retiring Rep. Sam Johnson’s (R-Plano) north Texas 3rd District, state Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano), as expected, easily captured the Republican nomination (84.7 percent) and he will go onto win the general election. In Rep. O’Rourke’s El Paso-anchored 16th District, the El Paso County Judge (Executive), Veronica Escobar, recorded a 61.4 percent win over five opponents and will easily win the succeeding general election. In Houston, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), also as expected, notched a 63.2 percent win against six Democratic opponents, and she will replace retiring Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) in the 29th CD.

Turning to Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-Atascocita) open district, a surprise occurred in the GOP primary. Though she spent over $5 million of her own money, GOP activist Kathaleen Wall failed to qualify for the run-off by a slight 145-vote margin. State Rep. Kevin Roberts (R-Houston) placed first with 33 percent and will face retired Naval officer Dan Crenshaw (27.4 percent) in the May 22 Republican run-off. The winner will have the inside track toward replacing the retiring seven-term incumbent in the general election.

A run-off will occur in retiring Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-Dallas) 5th District. State Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Terrell) advances to the run-off against political fundraiser Bunni Pounds. Gooden’s advantage in the primary vote was 29-22 percent over Pounds. Former Terrell City Councilman Dan Wood was unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Tarrant County Tax Assessor and former congressional chief of staff Ron Wright came within five percentage points of clinching the Republican nomination in retiring Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Ennis) north Texas’ 6th District. He becomes a heavy favorite to dispatch airline pilot and Afghanistan War veteran Jake Ellzey (21.7 percent) in the run-off election. Wright will likely succeed the retiring 17-term congressman.

In the 18-candidate 21st District Republican primary to succeed veteran Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), former Ted Cruz chief of staff Chip Roy placed first (27 percent), and will face frequent candidate Matt McCall (17 percent) in the run-off election. McCall, who has previously challenged Rep. Smith, may have benefited from name confusion since this seat is adjacent to Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Austin) 10th District. Roy now becomes the favorite to win the run-off and the general election to follow the retiring incumbent.

Turning to the Corpus Christi area, former Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun (36.1 percent) placed a close first in the Republican primary over former Victoria County Republican Party chairman Michael Cloud (34.9 percent), and the two will battle again in late May. The likely Republican nominee will replace retiring Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi).

Looking at the three races that are expected to be competitive in the general election, Rep. Hurd was easily re-nominated (80.3 percent), while the Democrats must go to a run-off. Former US Trade official Gina Ortiz Jones ran strongly in the Democratic primary (41.3 percent), but must face former San Antonio City Council candidate Rick Trevino (17.5 percent) on May 22. The Democrat establishment’s favored candidate, attorney Jay Huling’s (15 percent), failed to qualify. The succeeding general election here will be competitive in what is the state’s lone swing district.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston) was easily re-nominated with 76.1 percent while attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (29.3 percent) and author Laura Moser (24.3 percent) advance to a run-off.

In Dallas, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) won a 79.3 percent re-nomination victory, while ex-NFL player Colin Allred (38.5 percent) and former US Agriculture Department official Lillian Salerno (18.3 percent) will battle in the May 22 Democrat run-off election.

None of the 28 House incumbents seeking re-election were forced into a run-off. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas), running for what she says will be her last term, fared the worst but still scored a 63.6 percent re-nomination victory over two opponents.

Primary Season Begins Today

By Jim Ellis

texas-primary-election-2018March 6, 2018 — The 2018 primaries begin today, as Texans will complete their voting process for the first-in-the-nation midterm primary.

The Lone Star State political card features the US Senate race, a full compliment of statewide races, including Gov. Greg Abbott (R) beginning his campaign for re-election, along with voters choosing nominees in the 36 US House seats. The delegation’s eight open seats will attract the most attention. Should candidates not receive majority support, run-off elections between the top two finishers in each party will subsequently be held on May 22.

Both Sen. Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) are expected to easily win their respective nominations. This will officially begin the nation’s first US Senate general election cycle. Rep. O’Rourke will have the benefit of commanding strong financial resources — he had just under $5 million in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period — because so many national liberal donors are contributing against Sen. Cruz.

The Democratic gubernatorial primary features Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez opposing businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D). Neither have major resources, and the winner draws Gov. Abbott who could top $100 million in spending. The governor is viewed as a safe bet for re-election.

In the 36 House races, 28 incumbents are seeking re-election; 15 of them (a dozen Republicans and three Democrats) have primary opposition, but all are expected to easily win re-nomination.

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