Tag Archives: Sen. Jon Tester

Gianforte KO’s Quist in Montana

By Jim Ellis

May 26, 2017 — Bozeman, Montana businessman and former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte (R) shrugged off a 24-hour media pounding last evening. The congressional candidate, besieged with attacks over his election eve physical altercation with a Guardian-US publication reporter, rebounded to defeat country folk singer Rob Quist, 50-44 percent, in the state’s at-large special congressional election.

The victory margin translates into a 24,027-vote edge, from a voting universe of just under 375,000 people with one county still to report, who either came to the polls or mailed a pre-election day absentee ballot. The turnout is a special election record, and actually exceeds the number who voted in the state’s most recent mid-term (2014). The numbers are unusually high because the Montana at-large seat is the largest congressional district in the country, housing over one million residents.

The special congressional vote was made necessary when former at-large Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) was appointed US Interior Secretary. The major political parties nominated their candidates in convention, a process that produced Gianforte for the Republicans, which had been expected since he had run a close gubernatorial bid in November, and Quist for the Democrats.

In the end, the final result was not as close as several final pre-election media stories predicted. There were several pieces, even in conservative publications, that left the door wide open for a Quist upset finish, and the writers were already beginning to spin how this Montana election result would reflect poorly on President Trump.

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No Surprise in Montana;
New GA-6 Poll

By Jim Ellis

March 8, 2017 — Montana Republicans convened Monday night in the capital city of Helena to choose their nominee for the special at-large congressional election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Unlike the Democratic meeting the day before, the GOP caucus went according to the predicted political script.

Before the state convention, 2016 Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte claimed to have enough pledged votes to win on the first ballot, even against five other candidates. With 203 voting members attending last night, Gianforte’s claim held true. He captured 123 first ballot votes, over 60 percent of those present and voting, and won the nomination after just one round of voting.

During the preliminary question and answer period where the six candidates fielded queries from the delegates, concern was raised about whether the special election winner would serve for more than a term. The last two Republican at-large House members, current US Sen. Steve Daines and Zinke, each departed after one term. Daines was elected to the Senate in 2014 after first winning the House seat in 2012. Though Zinke successfully ran for a second term, he would only serve two months before being confirmed as President Trump’s Interior Secretary.

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The New Special

By Jim Ellis

March 3, 2017 — The Senate confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) as President Trump’s Interior Secretary yesterday, and the Montana political apparatus wasted no time initiating the special election to replace him.

After confirmation, Zinke immediately resigned from the House, and released a statement thanking his constituents for allowing him to serve. “It has been an honor to serve you in Congress, and I appreciate the faith and trust you put in me to represent your values, interests and priorities,” the new secretary said in his departing remarks.

Upon receiving word of Zinke’s resignation, Gov. Steve Bullock (D) scheduled the replacement special election for May 25. Under Montana election law, the recognized political parties will meet in convention to choose their special election nominees, thus the electorate will vote only once.

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The Trump 10

By Jim Ellis

March 2, 2017 — There already has been a great deal of talk about the difficult campaign road ahead that Democrats face in 2018. With having to defend 25 of 34 states in next year’s election, the minority party finds itself being forced to play defense in what should be a very offensive election cycle for them.

Republicans, theoretically, have a chance to gain seats in the midterms because they have offensive opportunities, similar to what the Democrats enjoyed in 2016. In that cycle, Republicans were forced to defend 24 of 34 in-cycle states, but were able to sustain their majority status, nonetheless.

The Trump 10 refers to the number of in-cycle Senate states that President Trump carried, where Democrats must defend. The following is a list of the 10 incumbents seeking re-election who should be in politically precarious positions. The group is listed in order of vulnerability, based upon the Democratic performance in the presidential race, the strength of the incumbent, and presumed challenger capability.

1) Indiana – Sen. Joe Donnelly – President Trump and the Republicans, ostensibly led by Vice President Mike Pence, the former Indiana governor, racked up large percentages in the Hoosier State. The trend, and the quality of potential Republican challengers such as representatives Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) and Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), arguably makes Sen. Donnelly the most vulnerable of Democrats seeking re-election.

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Senate Plans

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2017
— Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two of the Senate’s most elderly members, were at the top of the potential retirement list in 2018. But, as we mentioned in our updates during the preceding 10 days, both are now sending re-election signals.

Below is a re-cap of the 21 senators who have made public comments about their 2018 campaign status (a total of 33 are in-cycle):

California: Sen. Feinstein stated during a radio interview within the past few days that she is “leaning” toward seeking re-election, feeling that her age during the next campaign (85) will not be a particular detriment either to her political ability or in representing her constituents. She stopped short, however, of making a formal campaign announcement.

Delaware: Sen. Tom Carper (D) said in early December that he has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term in 2018. The senator has been in elective office for 40 consecutive years, and will be 72 at the time of the next election.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was also thought to be a retirement possibility, considering that he will be 76 years of age in 2018, and will complete 30 years of congressional service in that same year. Repeatedly, however, Sen. Nelson has said that he will seek a fourth term next year.

Indiana: In what promises to be a hotly contested campaign, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) announced his re-election intention in January, and is beginning to hire political staff.

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Another Special Looms

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 16, 2015 — Already, calling potentially five special elections may be necessary even before the new 115th Congress convenes. Now, a sixth is on the political horizon now that Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) has been nominated as US Interior Secretary.

As we have detailed in previous Updates, Sen. Jeff Sessions’ Alabama seat could go to a special election after an interim appointment is made, and the North Dakota Senate seat will definitely go before the voters if president-elect Donald Trump chooses Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) as Agriculture Secretary.

In the House, three seats will be vacated either before or just after the new Congress begins. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA-34) has already resigned his seat to accept Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment as attorney general, replacing Sen.-Elect Kamala Harris (D). The KS-4 and GA-6 districts will be opened when Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) and Tom Price (R-Roswell) are confirmed as CIA Director and Secretary of Health & Human Services, respectively.

So far, all of the seats, including the North Dakota Democratic Senate seat, should easily go Republican in special elections. The Montana at-large seat, however, may well become competitive.

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Capps Out in California;
The Cortez Masto Effect In Nevada

April 10, 2015 — Veteran California Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), aged 77, announced Wednesday that she will not seek re-election to an eleventh term in office next year for her CA-24 seat. The congresswoman entered the House via a special election victory in 1998 after her husband, Rep. Walter Capps (D-CA), passed away suddenly; he was first elected in 1996 but suffered a fatal heart attack at the Washington Dulles Airport less than a year after winning his seat. Lois Capps finished her husband’s term and has been re-elected ever since.

The 24th District contains Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, along with part of Ventura. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission made this district much more competitive as Capps’ 55 and 52 percent victory margins in the past two elections suggest. The 2001 congressional map created a coastal district for Capps (then numbered CA-23), slanting the seat to the ideological left in order to help the Democratic incumbent hold the seat. Thanks in large part to map construction, Capps had little in the way of challenges throughout the decade.

But it was becoming clearer that Republicans have a chance to convert the new 24th as a direct result of including all of the more conservative San Luis Obispo County in the district. Republican Chris Mitchum, son of deceased actor Robert Mitchum, pulled 48 percent against the congresswoman in the last election despite spending less than one-quarter the amount of money of his opponent. A stronger candidate could possibly have done better perhaps even scored an upset over Capps in what became a very favorable Republican year.
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