Tag Archives: Sen. Chuck Grassley

The “Fail Up” Senate Candidates

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 16, 2021 — There is an interesting phenomenon developing in the 2022 US Senate races, and that is the number of currently leading primary nomination candidates who have lost their last race. No less than five current US Senate contenders, all topping the latest polling, were defeated the last time they were on the ballot, some even in political campaigns for offices with less prominence.

In recent election years, we’ve seen a number of candidates lose a race and then attempt to “fail up” in the next campaign year. Most of the time, the same result occurs. The seemingly lone exception to the rule is Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D), who lost a special election for the US House in 2017 only to run for the Senate in 2020 and be elected.

Turning to 2022 and the unusually high number of such “fail up” candidates allows us to see if this pattern can reverse itself, or if the vast majority of these contenders will again find themselves on the short end of the vote totals when their election cycle ends either in the nomination contest or general election.

The 2022 “fail up” Senate candidates are Abby Finkenauer (D) in Iowa, Adam Laxalt (R) from Nevada, Pat McCrory (R) and Cheri Beasley (D) in North Carolina, and Pennsylvania’s Sean Parnell (R). Dr. Al Gross, who lost the 2020 Senate race in Alaska is a possibility to enter the 2022 race in the Last Frontier, but so far has not announced his candidacy.

Finkenauer, a Democrat, is a former state representative and congresswoman from Dubuque, Iowa. She was elected to the House in 2018, only to lose her seat after one term, 50-47 percent, to current US Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids).

Finkenauer is leading in early polling for the Senate Democratic nomination as she and retired Navy admiral and defeated 2020 US Senate candidate Mike Franken battle to challenge venerable Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) who has won seven US Senate elections. Early polling finds Finkenauer trailing by close to 20 points.

Laxalt was elected Nevada’s attorney general in 2014, but with only 46 percent of the vote in a place where his party swept all of the statewide offices in that election year with his being the lowest victory percentage. Laxalt then entered the open 2018 governor’s race but lost to current incumbent Steve Sisolak (D), 49-45 percent. The latest polling (September) finds him trailing Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) by five points in a Mellman Group survey but holding a two-point lead in a study from WPA Intelligence.

North Carolina actually features candidates in both parties leading in nomination polling after losing their last race. McCrory is the former governor who lost his 2016 re-election campaign, even while Donald Trump and seven other Republicans were winning their statewide elections.

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Iowa Map Enacted

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 10, 2021 — Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed the new Iowa redistricting map package, legislation that contained the new US House, state Senate, and state House of Representatives maps. The new congressional plan makes what appear to be minor changes to the state’s four districts, while again crafting a new quartet that would have voted in unison for former President Donald Trump. As is the case on the current map, Trump’s district victory margins featured varying percentages.

The Iowa redistricting system is unique. Some believe the state redistricts through a commission, but that is not the case. Rather, a state legislative committee is tasked with drawing the three-map plans and presenting them to the legislature for final approval. The plans must be submitted as a package, and the legislators may only vote up or down on the whole group, as no amendments to any of the maps are allowed.

The committee also employs a formulaic algorithm to create the districts without regard to political proclivities or deference to incumbents. If three map packages are rejected, the legislature then takes full control of the process.

The adopted package is the second plan iteration. The committee staff first put forth a series of maps that failed to make it through the first state Senate committee of jurisdiction. That congressional map was much different than the ultimately enacted plan. In the first draw, freshman Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids) would have been placed in a decidedly Democratic district that would have made her an underdog for re-election in 2022.

It is likely, however, that alone was not the reason for the Senate committee members rejecting the map package. The committee staff created two separate pairings of three incumbent senators apiece, thus dooming the entire package. Once returned, the congressional map plan, using a changed formula, returned to a similar configuration as under the current map.

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Sen. Grassley to Seek Re-Election

By Jim Ellis

Iowa’s seven-term US Sen. Chuck Grassley (R)

Sept. 28, 2021 — Saying he “ … has a lot more to do for Iowa,” seven-term Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) on Friday announced that he will run for an eighth term next year. Recently, the senator said he would make his decision about launching a 2022 campaign on or before Nov. 1.

Sen. Grassley was one of three Republican incumbents who had not declared their re-election intentions. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) both say they will announce their decisions later in the fall. All 14 in-cycle Democrats are on an active re-election track.

Sen. Grassley is already the longest-serving Iowa US senator, originally elected on the same night when Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980. He has been an elected official since winning his first term in the state House of Representatives back in 1958. Should he win the coming election and complete his next term, he will have served 70 consecutive years as a public official, counting his time in the state legislature, US House and Senate.

It appears the senator is in strong political shape for the coming campaign. At this point, he faces only state Sen. Jim Carlin (R-Sioux City) in the Republican primary.

When he entered the race, it was speculated that Carlin was attempting to get a head start on an open Republican primary in anticipation that the 88-year-old senator would announce his retirement. He indicated that he planned to stay in the race regardless of Sen. Grassley’s intentions, but now that the incumbent’s campaign is official we will see if Carlin continues in his long shot statewide effort.

The leading Democrat is former Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer. She served two terms in the state House of Representatives, and then defeated incumbent US Rep. Rod Blum (R) in the 2018 election. She would subsequently lose her first re-election bid to current Congresswoman Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids). Now, like so many others who have recently lost elections, Finkenauer is attempting to run for a higher office.

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2022: The Unannounced

By Jim Ellis

July 19, 2021 — The Fox News website ran a story late last week saying that there remain five in-cycle US senators who have not yet revealed their political plans for 2022. Below is a review of those senators’ political situations and clues that could provide a glimpse whether they are headed toward re-election or retirement.

The best hints will be forthcoming in a matter of days as the second quarter campaign financial disclosure reports will be released shortly on the Federal Election Commission website. Last Thursday was the deadline for filing the reports for the period covering April 1 through June 30.

The five senators, listed alphabetically by state are Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Thune (R-SD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Ron Johnson (R-WI).


Sen. Murkowski:

State: Alaska
Appointed: 2002
Re-elected: 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 65
Victory Margin 2016: 44.4 – 29.2%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Karl Speights (R) – Retired Air Force officer
• Kelly Tshibaka (R) – Former AK Administration Commissioner

It is assumed that Sen. Murkowski will run for re-election, though her return path to Washington may be a difficult one to traverse. Last night, her campaign spokesperson stated that the Senator’s second quarter disclosure report would show $1.15 million raised for the quarter with $2.3 million cash-on-hand. These are financial numbers that suggest she will seek re-election.

Alaska has changed its nominating system and will be the first state to adopt a “top four” primary procedure. Similar to California, Louisiana, and Washington that use the jungle primary format to send the top two candidates to the general election, Alaska will instead advance the top four from the slate primary. The change virtually ensures that Sen. Murkowski will not again lose the Republican primary as she did in the 2010 election. In that year, she was forced to run a highly efficient general election write-in operation to win her second full term.

Early polling numbers find Sen. Murkowski with very poor favorability numbers among Republicans and running a distant third behind Kelly Tshibaka (R), who is already the state Republican Party’s officially endorsed candidate. Dr. Al Gross (D), the 2020 Senate nominee, has not yet committed to running again, but he, too, runs ahead of the Senator in the previously released surveys.

While the top four system guarantees Sen. Murkowski will secure a ballot position for the general election, winning her re-election is in doubt.


Sen. Grassley:

State: Iowa
First Elected: 1980
Re-elected: 1986, 1992, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2016
Age at time of 2022 election: 89
Victory Margin 2016: 60.1 – 35.7%

Announced Major Opponents:
• Jim Carlin (R) – State Senator; former State Representative
• Glenn Hurst (D) – Minden City Councilman; Physician
• Dave Muhlbauer (D) – Ex-Crawford County Commissioner; Farmer

Last week Sen. Grassley stated that he would make his political plan public before Nov. 1. Despite his advanced age, it is presumed in all sectors now that Sen. Grassley will seek re-election. He has filed a 2022 campaign committee with the FEC, has a semi-updated website, and it will be interesting to see how active his fundraising became in the second quarter. His March 31 report revealed a cash-on-hand figure of $2.04 million to begin the re-election cycle.

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Rep. Murphy to Challenge Sen. Rubio

By Jim Ellis

Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)

May 14, 2021 — According to the Axios news site, insiders close to Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) say that she has made the decision to challenge Sen. Marco Rubio (R) next year and will formally announce her campaign next month. The move had been expected for some time.

Rep. Murphy, a native of the country of Vietnam, was first elected to the House in 2016, defeating veteran Republican incumbent John Mica after the state Supreme Court had re-drawn the Florida congressional districts and made the 7th CD more Democratic. She unseated Rep. Mica 51-49 percent, and then scored re-election victories of 58 and 55 percent in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

A strong fundraiser, Rep. Murphy obtained over $3 million for both of her incumbent re-election campaigns. She ended the 1st quarter 2021 with a cash-on-hand figure of $1.43 million. Sen. Rubio posted $3.9 million in his campaign account during the same reporting period.

Assuming Murphy does enter the race next month, Democrats will have a credible challenger to Sen. Rubio, but one who still must be considered a decided underdog. In 2010, Sen. Rubio, then a state representative, defeated then-governor Charlie Crist, who was running as an Independent, and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek by a 49-30-20 percent margin. He was re-elected in 2016 with a 52-44 percent vote spread over then-congressman Patrick Murphy (D).

Florida races, as we know, are always competitive and usually very close, though the state has been trending more Republican over the past several elections. A Rubio-Stephanie Murphy race promises to become a national campaign.

With the Democrats apparently attracting a strong candidate in Florida, it is a good time to review the other key races.

In Pennsylvania, both parties are headed for very crowded primaries as each works to nominate a candidate to hopefully succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R). Afghan War veteran Sean Parnell entered the Republican primary earlier this week, but his only venture into elective politics was recording a two-point loss to Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh) last November in an Allegheny County suburban district.

Rep. Lamb, himself, may join the Democratic Senate campaign, meaning both parties are going to host political dogfights for the party nomination. In any event, however, the Pennsylvania race will be a top-tier national campaign.

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Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R)

March 10, 2021 — Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt (R) announced via video yesterday that he is not seeking a third term next year. He will conclude an era of elected public service that spanned 14 years in the House in addition to completing a dozen years in the Senate. Prior to his federal career, he served as Missouri’s secretary of state, was the Greene County clerk, ran for governor, and saw his son elected governor.

The Blunt exit brings the number of Republican open Senate seats to five and could soon go to seven if Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) follow suit. Sen. Grassley will turn 89 years of age before the next election, and Sen. Johnson originally made a two-term promise when he first ran in 2010. The other announced GOP retirees are Sens. Richard Burr (NC), Pat Toomey (PA), Rob Portman (OH), and Richard Shelby (AL).

Without Sen. Blunt in the 2022 race, we can expect a contested Republican primary. Potential candidates include Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, the son of former senator and US Attorney General John Ashcroft, and US Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin/St. Louis County), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-St. Elizabeth/Jefferson City), Sam Graves (R-Tarkio/St. Joseph), Billy Long (R-Springfield), and Jason Smith (R-Salem/Southeast MO) among others.

Resigned Gov. Eric Greitens, who was forced from office due to a sex scandal, was beginning to talk about launching a primary against Sen. Blunt, so in an open-seat situation he will be another person whose name will regularly surface.

We’re seeing almost the opposite response among Democrats. The initial public comments from two of the most well-known Missouri Dems, former Sen. Claire McCaskill and 2016 nominee Jason Kander, who held Sen. Blunt to a tight 49-46 percent win in 2016, both immediately indicated that they will not run in 2022. Thus, a previously announced Senate candidate, former state Sen. Scott Sifton, apparently becomes the early leader for the party nomination.

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Ohio Sen. Portman to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced his retirement Monday.

Jan. 27, 2021 — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek a third term next year, opening the third Senate seat for the 2022 election cycle.

Addressing reporters at a news conference in Cincinnati yesterday, Sen. Portman said, “Our country’s polarized right now. It’s kind of shirts and skins. That makes it more difficult to find that common ground. Elected officials aren’t rewarded for that. What they’re rewarded for is throwing red meat to the talk show.”

The two-term senator indicated that the “partisan gridlock” is one of the reasons for his retirement. He further said in explaining his retirement decision, “we just keep pushing out to the right and to the left, there’s not going to be much left in the middle to solve the real problems we face.”

For the Republicans, they now have three big state open seats to defend as Sen. Portman joins Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr as incumbents who have already made their 2022 retirement plans public. Several others could be on the horizon.

Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will be 88 and 89 years of age, respectively, at the time of the next election, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) originally took a two-term pledge when he was first elected in 2010. None of these three lawmakers have made their future political plans public to date, however.

Ohio, once a bedrock Republican state, developed a swing image beginning in 1992 when the state deserted GOP President George H.W. Bush and backed Democrat Bill Clinton. They did so again in 1996. In 2000 and 2004, Ohio returned to the Republican column awarding George W. Bush with its electoral votes. In 2008 and 2012, the Buckeye State ventured back to the Democratic side of the political ledger, supporting Barack Obama in both of his national elections.

Therefore, rather than being cast as a swing state during this 20 year period, Ohio may actually have been a microcosm of the national electorate since the state’s voters chose the winning candidate in each of the presidential elections during that time span, and had done likewise for the three previous decades.

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