Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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New Year Senate Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2018 — Continuing our New Year’s preview, today we look at the 2018 Senate races from the Democrats’ perspective.

THE DEMOCRATS

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Because they are now defending 26 of the 34 in-cycle seats, with the addition of the Minnesota special election, the Dems must primarily develop a solid defense before venturing into attack mode. If they are to have any chance of gaining a 51-49 majority, they will realistically have to win all 26 of the incumbent and open seat races they are forced to risk. This includes three contests already considered toss-up campaigns: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill likely facing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Indiana race, and the budding Florida campaign likely between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott.

Regardless of whom Sen. Donnelly ultimately faces in the Hoosier State, he will draw a top-tier opponent. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) battle for the Republican senatorial nomination, and they also face a credible third challenger in former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Braun has the strong ability to finance his own campaign, thus allowing him to adequately compete with the two congressmen. Since he has the promise of becoming his own force, Braun could conceivably strike a chord with the Republican electorate if the two congressmen continue fighting amongst themselves and allow him to slip by both of them.

Republicans will also be competitive in several other Senate races, as they project to have a strong opponent against West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins battle for the GOP nomination to be decided in May), while state Treasurer Josh Mandel looks to provide a stronger challenge to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) than he did in 2012 when he fell 51-45 percent. The Pennsylvania GOP electorate looks to be coalescing behind Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) but upsetting Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is still a highly formidable task, and this developing contest must be considered a long shot as the new year begins.

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A New Round of Special Elections

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

Michigan Rep. John Conyers (Facebook)

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 8, 2017 — Last week, it was erroneously reported in the New York Daily News and several other publications and tweets that embattled Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) had announced he would not seek re-election next year, but the story proved premature.

Congress’ most senior member actually took things a step further on Tuesday. Not only will he not seek another term in office, but the Dean of the House, and the only member originally elected in the 1960s, resigned his seat effective immediately. The sexual harassment allegations that seem to be growing by the day, in the end, proved too much for Conyers to contain and remain in office.

The congressman’s mid-term departure after more than 53 years in office will lead to a new special election for Michigan’s 13th District, a seat fully contained in Wayne County that encompasses a large portion of the city of Detroit, including part of the downtown area. The district then swings south to include the River Rouge and Midtown communities before swerving west to annex Brightmoor, Warrendale, Westland, and Romulus, the latter town being adjacent to the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County airport. The majority black district is 55 percent African American and 38 percent Anglo. No other race or ethnicity tops 10 percent of the district population.

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The Senate Picture – Re-cap

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 28, 2017 — During the Thanksgiving holiday week, we previewed all 34 current Senate races. Today, we wrap-up with the often-described 30,000-foot national overview perspective.

The Alabama special Senate election scheduled for Dec. 12 will tell us a great deal about the coming regular cycle. While the Roy Moore-Doug Jones race is not likely to provide a voting trend preview since the contest has been tainted with scandal, it will signal whether or not the Democrats own a path to the Senate majority.

If Democrat Jones wins the Alabama special, it would give his party 49 seats, thus making their two primary Republican conversion targets in Arizona and Nevada enough to claim majority status, assuming all 25 of their defense seats are held, which, of course, is no easy task. If Republican Moore can hold Alabama, despite being jettisoned by the national GOP leadership, that would secure the Republican majority because such an outcome relegates Democrats’ chances of netting the three GOP seats they need within the regular cycle as highly unlikely.

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The Senate Picture – Part III (Of III)

34-in-cycle-us-senate-seats-3-of-3

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 27, 2017 — Wrapping up our holiday recap of the 2018 Senate races — we finish our coverage with Ohio through Wyoming.

• Ohio: State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 51-45 percent win in 2012 during the same election when President Obama led the ticket in Ohio, returns for a re-match next year. Mandel must first get past wealthy investment banker Michael Gibbons in the Republican primary, but appears well positioned to do so. A Brown-Mandel race could again develop into a major campaign, as the Republican’s ability to run a strong statewide race has improved during the last six years. In 2014, Mandel was re-elected state Treasurer with 59 percent of the vote.
Rating: Lean D

• Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) runs for a third term after seeing President Trump and fellow Sen. Pat Toomey (R) win close Keystone State contests last year. It is conceivable that Sen. Casey will be in a tighter re-election campaign cycle than five years ago when he scored a 54-45 percent victory. Since Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) entered the race, the GOP Senate candidate field has decreased with two contenders, state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/Jefferson Hills) and businessman Jeff Bartos, departing to run for other offices. The general election could be competitive, but Rep. Barletta may have a difficult time re-constructing President Trump’s winning coalition. The congressman may find a very rough going in the Philadelphia suburbs as did President Trump, which means developing a winning statewide base becomes highly challenging. Like the president posted, Rep. Barletta will need a record rural turnout in order to win.
Rating: Likely/Lean D

• Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) appears poised for an easy re-election run next year, particularly with Republican attention focused upon a much more competitive governor’s race.
Rating: Safe D

• Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) is retiring after two terms, but Republicans are still in strong position to hold the seat. Democrats are attempting to recruit former Gov. Phil Bredesen, but he is not likely to become a candidate even though saying a decision about running will be made shortly. Republicans will likely feature a GOP primary between Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former two-term Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) that will be very competitive in early August, but sure to produce a strong general election contender.
Rating: Likely R, and Safe R if Bredesen does not run.

• Texas: Though eventual Democratic nominee Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) will be able to raise a large amount of national money, he will be no match for Sen. Ted Cruz (R), who is seeking his second term. O’Rourke is a capable candidate who can wage a respectable campaign, but Texas voting history and Cruz’s strength within the Republican base will still yield him a victory at least in high single-digits.
Rating: Likely R

• Utah: Two major questions dominate this campaign: will Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) seek an eighth term, and if not, does former presidential nominee Mitt Romney come forward to replace him. Sen. Hatch continues to say he plans on running, but always leaves the retirement door open particularly if Romney says he will run. Either way, the seat remains in the Republican column, as Utah Democrats are too weak to field a strong statewide candidate. It is probable that the GOP dynamic will not crystallize until well after the first of next year.
Rating: Safe R

• Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders will again appear on the Vermont ballot as an Independent even though he was a major contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. Regardless of his party designation, he is safe for re-election in his small state, which likely features the most liberal constituency in the country.
Rating: Safe I

• Virginia: Particularly after the Democrats’ strong showing in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is a heavy favorite for re-election as he seeks a second term on the heels of losing as the Democrats’ Vice Presidential nominee. At this point, controversial Republican Corey Stewart, the Prince William County Board chairman who ran strongly in the GOP gubernatorial primary, is Sen. Kaine’s leading opponent but Republicans desire a more viable candidate. Speculation is increasing that Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) might run especially with the Democrats turning in such a strong performance in her Northern Virginia district earlier this month. So far, there is no indication that Rep. Comstock will reverse course to enter the statewide contest, however.
Rating: Likely/Safe D

• Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) has yet to even draw an opponent as she prepares a run for a fourth term.
Rating: Safe D

• West Virginia: A major Republican primary is brewing between Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), with the winner facing Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next fall. Though West Virginia has moved decidedly to the right since the turn of the century and President Trump posted 69 percent here last November, Sen. Manchin remains at least a slight favorite for re-election. A minor Democratic primary challenge from the left should help the senator continue better craft his centrist image.
Rating: Lean D

• Wisconsin: Though Republicans have seen their fortunes greatly increase here during the past seven years, the field challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) has been slow to develop. Businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) is active and receiving heavy support from outside financial sources, but the Republican conservative base is looking elsewhere. State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) is in the race and figures to be a significant candidate. With the Wisconsin primary not occurring until August, Sen. Baldwin has the luxury of having a long time to prepare for what should be an active general election campaign cycle.
Rating: Lean D

• Wyoming: The big question surrounds whether Sen. John Barrasso draws a GOP primary challenge from Blackwater Security firm founder and international businessman Erik Prince, brother of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, or mega-conservative donor Foster Friess. Chances are neither will run, meaning Sen. Barrasso has little trouble in securing a second full term.
Rating: Safe R

The Next Special: Nominees Set

By Jim Ellis

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Former Pennsylvania Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb (L) | Pennsylvania State Rep. Rick Saccone (R)

Nov. 21, 2017 — After the raucous Alabama special Senate election concludes on Dec. 12, voters in western Pennsylvania will go to the polls next March 13 to fill a US House vacancy. We will remember that Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned under pressure in October after a series of extra-marital affairs came into public view, with allegations that he urged a mistress to have an abortion at the very time he was co-sponsoring pro-life legislation.

Murphy had represented his southwestern Keystone State district since originally winning election in 2002, in a seat the preceding redistricting plan created as open. Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Murphy was elected to two terms in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Upon the congressman’s resignation, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) scheduled the replacement general election for March 13. Under Pennsylvania statute, there is no primary to choose partisan nominees. Rather, the various political party members meet in a special district convention to choose among individual candidates.

A week ago Saturday, Republicans chose state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/ Jefferson Hills) who had previously dropped his US Senate campaign to take his chances in the open House seat. Prior to winning his position in the state legislature in 2010, Saccone had served as an Air Force officer, a civilian employee of the Army in Iraq after retiring from active duty, and a television anchorman for a South Korean English-language news station. He also was assigned to North Korea for the purpose of assisting with a proposed agreement to prevent further nuclear weapons development. Saccone won the GOP nomination on the second ballot, defeating state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Kim Ward (R-Greensburg).

Democrats met in their 18th District special convention Sunday and chose as their standard bearer. Lamb, like his future Republican opponent Rep. Saccone, also won nomination on the second ballot by defeating Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli, former Obama Veterans Administration official Pam Iovino, Allegheny County Councilman Mike Crossey, psychologist Rueben Brock, writer Keith Seewald, and emergency physician Bob Solomon.

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Mapping Out the
Open Seat Opportunities

By Jim Ellis

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-November-2017Nov. 16, 2017 — If the Democrats are to capture the House majority next year, they will have to score well in the burgeoning open seat category, but so far the map does not appear particularly favorable for them. Though a strong showing in the 2017 odd-year elections, particularly in Virginia, gives them a boost headed into the midterm vote, Democrats still have a significant task ahead in order to gain ground within the House open seat universe.

Witnessing six new retirement announcements since the end of October, in part because the Dec. 11 Texas candidate filing deadline for 2018 is fast approaching thus forcing early campaign decisions, the open-seat contingent has significantly changed during the past month.

Currently, counting the PA-18 vacant seat that will be decided in a March 13 special election, 36 seats are coming open next year. Monday’s retirement pronouncement from Lone Star State Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) brings the Democratic open protect count to 11 seats, meaning 25 incumbent-less Republican districts remain.

But, carefully looking at the GOP open-seat inventory yields very few highly competitive districts. One can argue, and we do, that the number of endangered Republican seats is only two: retiring veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Miami) South Florida district, and south New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s (R-Ventnor City) CD.

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