Please click on the links below to read our recent articles.
March 1, 2018 — McDaniel In
February 28, 2018 — AZ 8 Results
February 27, 2018 — Surprising California House Non-Endorsements
February 26, 2018 — California: Democrats Maneuver in San Diego
February 23, 2018 — Indictment Politics
February 22, 2018 — Setting the Stage: Texas Primary
"McDaniel In" by Jim Ellis
March 1, 2018
Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) announced at a rally yesterday that he will challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in the June 5th Republican primary. Mr. McDaniel's declaration, which had been speculated upon for months, came just before the state's candidate filing deadline, which is today.
In 2014, McDaniel came within an eyelash of denying Sen. Thad Cochran (R) re-nomination as the incumbent was saved ironically through a reported deal made with African American leaders to deliver black votes for the Senator in the Republican run-off.
In his original primary against Sen. Cochran, McDaniel actually placed first, but was denied winning the party nomination because he finished 1,719 votes away from attracting majority support. This forced the secondary run-off election. The presence of a third candidate in that primary race, the little known Thomas Carey who received 4,854 votes, created the dynamic for the run-off. Had Carey not been a candidate, McDaniel would have successfully won the GOP nomination, and would very likely be serving in the Senate today.
But, a race against Sen. Wicker will be much different. Though Mr. McDaniel did very well in his challenge to Sen. Cochran, he still failed to win. Therefore, some of the luster his grassroots supporters had for him as a candidate may have faded at least to a degree.
Unlike Sen. Cochran, Mr. Wicker is ready for such a challenge and has been preparing for it since his colleague's close call four years ago. At year's end, Sen. Wicker had amassed more than $4.12 million in his campaign account.
By contrast, Mr. McDaniel begins at ground zero. For his 2014 statewide race, the Mississippi legislator raised over $3.3 million but ended that campaign with just a little over $8,000 in the bank and $25,100 in listed debts. Now, a little over three months from the next election, McDaniel has much financial ground to eclipse in a limited number of days.
Earlier there was talk of Super PACs forming to fund challenges to Republican incumbents, and Chris McDaniel was likely to be a top recipient of such support. But, with Steve Bannon, the man that was originally spearheading such a drive, likely on the political sidelines it is doubtful that such a fund, or funds, will be in existence to the degree originally contemplated. If we do not see an outside operation coming forward to help McDaniel, the new candidate will assuredly be at a very significant resource disadvantage.
Sen. Wicker was originally appointed to the Senate in 2007 by then-Gov. Haley Barbour (R) to replace resigned Sen. Trent Lott (R). He came to the Senate after serving most of six terms in the House, winning his original congressional election from the state's northern 1st District in 1994. He was then elected to fill the balance of the Senate term in 2008, and won a full term in 2012. Now, Sen. Wicker seeks a second full term.
The Wicker-McDaniel primary will draw a great deal of national attention, and Sen. Wicker begins as a strong favorite for re-nomination. Another Republican, businessman Richard Boyanton, has also announced his candidacy. If he, or others file today, it means the chance of advancing into a run-off election, as was the case in 2014, at least remotely exists.
"AZ 8 Results" by Jim Ellis
February 28, 2018
Voters in the West Valley of Maricopa County went to the polls yesterday, and throughout the early voting period, to cast their ballots for special election nominees to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria).
Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria), until she resigned her own seat in the state legislature to enter this special congressional election, was the state Senate President Pro Tempore. She became the favorite late in the voting period, and capitalized on her momentum to score a strong victory in the Republican primary. She recorded 36% of the vote while resigned state Rep. Phil Lovas (R-Glendale) and resigned state Sen. Steve Montenegro (R-Surprise) trailed, each posting 24%. Former Public Service Commissioner Bob Stump, no relation to the late US Rep. Bob Stump (R) who served in the House for 26 years, finished a poor fourth capturing just over 5 percent of the vote.
Arizona has a "resign to run" law, meaning an elected official must relinquish the office they currently hold if seeking another elected position. This explains all of the office holders running in this special contest having recently resigned their positions.
For the Democrats, physician Hiral Tipirneni scored an easy 60-40% victory over auto sales manager and LGBT activist Brianna Westbrook in a contest that never appeared to be in doubt. Though turnout was up substantially in the Democratic column when compared to past similar elections, their participation number still paled in comparison to majority Republicans. The unofficial count shows 36,404 total Democratic votes, while the aggregate GOP vote recorded 71,320 spread among a dozen candidates.
The 8th District is heavily Republican (Trump '16: 58-37; Romney '12: 62-37%; McCain '08: 61-38%), and the gross GOP turnout looks to exceed their Democratic counterparts by a 2:1 margin. At this writing, the total turnout is just under 110,000 votes, a tip above 24% of the entire registered voter database.
Ms. Lesko and Dr. Tipirneni now advance to the April 24th special general election. Ms. Lesko, taking advantage of the electorate's Republican nature, begins the special general as a heavy favorite while questions remain about whether the national Democratic apparatus will even spend the money to contest the seat.
After winning the seat on 4/24, the new House member will then file for the regular election before May 30th in preparation for the August 28th Arizona primary.
The next special election comes on March 13th when Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone and Democratic attorney Conor Lamb square off in a battle to replace resigned Pennsylvania Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).
On May 8th, central Ohio voters, in a special congressional primary held concurrently with the state's regular primary election, will choose nominees to replace resigned-Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) in the Franklin County anchored 12th Congressional District.
The final special election will be held concurrently with the general election cycle. Michigan former Rep. John Conyers' (D-Detroit) seat will be vacant until the November general election, at which time voters will choose a replacement to serve the remaining two months of the current Congress and to represent the constituency for the coming term.
"Surprising California House Non-Endorsements" by Jim Ellis
February 27, 2018
Yesterday, we reported that the California Democratic Party state convention delegates snubbed veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein by not officially endorsing her for re-election. The US House endorsements, or lack of them in many instances, also featured some unexpected results.
Looking at the 14 Golden State Republican incumbents, seven of whom Democratic leaders have publicly identified as targets for the upcoming election, the state delegates left four of these top conversion opportunities without an endorsed candidate.
In the campaigns against Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto), Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), and in the open 39th (Rep. Ed Royce retiring) and 49th (Rep. Darrell Issa retiring) districts, the Democratic candidate contingent in each contest will head into the June 5th jungle primary election with no one carrying the official party endorsement.
In the other two top-tier targeted districts, the 21st (Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford/ Bakersfield), and 45th (Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine), the convention delegates did officially endorse. Against Rep. Valadao, the activists chose their 2016 nominee, attorney Emilio Huerta, who actually performed poorly against the Congressman in losing 57-43% while Hillary Clinton carried the district 55-40%. But, Mr. Huerta is the only announced candidate in this race. Therefore, he was easily able to exceed the 60% threshold needed to claim the state party endorsement.
In the Walters district, the party delegates chose law professor Dave Min as their endorsed candidate. This is a bit of a surprise because fellow law professor and consumer advocate Katie Porter seems to be attracting at least an equivalent level of campaign support. Both have outside endorsements, each has raised over $675,000 (Min: $679,000; Porter: $741,000), and the two have more than $400,000 in the bank (Min: $411,000; Porter: $510,000). In addition to these two candidates, four other Democrats are also on the ballot. Mr. Min, however, is clearly the better inside political player since he was able to convince a super majority of convention delegates to publicly back his campaign.
In Rep. Denham's district, the no endorsement result must be regarded as a victory for late entry candidate Michael Eggman, the party nominee who lost to the Congressman in both 2014 and 2016. Many Democratic establishment activists and liberal groups are coalescing behind venture capitalist Josh Harder, who already has raised more than $900,000 and has almost $700,000 cash-on-hand. A total of six other Democrats are announced candidates for the June 5th qualifying election.
The biggest surprise was the convention delegates bypassing attorney Bryan Caforio (D) for his desired re-match with Rep. Knight. Mr. Caforio held the Congressman to a 53-47% victory in 2016 but now has seven Democratic opponents, nevertheless, including non-profit executive Katie Hill who is obviously making some progress. The state delegates' lack of action was even more stunning when understanding that Mr. Caforio received 73% in a test vote within the district caucus. Both Caforio and Hill have raised just slightly under $700,000 for the 2018 campaign.
It's less surprising that no official endorsements were rendered in the two main open seats, Mr. Royce's Orange/Los Angeles County district, and Mr. Issa's Orange/San Diego County CD.
In the Royce open seat, eight Democrats have announced, but two are gaining most of the early support. The Democratic establishment appears to prefer lottery winner and retired Navy officer Gil Cisneros, while the liberal activists are drawn toward physician and former Wall Street analyst Mai-Khanh Tran. The former won a $250 million jackpot in the California lottery, so campaign finances are of little concern to him. Dr. Tran has amassed more than $817,000 in receipts and had more than $534,000 remaining in the bank at year's end.
Seeing no endorsement in the open Issa seat, however, was actually expected. With 2016 nominee Doug Applegate running the closest losing campaign in the country during the last cycle, but out-of-district attorney Mike Levin raising the most early money, this race is already moving toward an unclear finish.
Some analysts believe that having too many candidates in key races will lead to a different set of problems by splitting votes, resources, and party activists while a large field drives the eventual nominee to the far left in order to compete for the loyal Democratic primary voter, and such may be starting to unfold. Thus, the California Democratic Party convention endorsement process could be the first tangible symbol suggesting that these obstacles are beginning to appear.
"California: Democrats Maneuver in San Diego" by Jim Ellis
February 26, 2018
Two noteworthy Democratic happenings emanated from San Diego during the past few days.
First, the California Democratic Party state convention, meeting in San Diego over the weekend, actually denied veteran Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) the party endorsement. Though the delegates came close to endorsing state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), he too fell short.
In the vote to award the party endorsement for the 2018 US Senate race, it was state Sen. de Leon capturing 54% of the delegate votes as compared to only 37% for incumbent Sen. Feinstein. A total of 60% was needed for endorsement. This is not the first time that the liberal grassroots delegates turned away from Feinstein. According to a NPR account of the convention proceedings, the party delegates chose then-Attorney General John Van de Kamp over Ms. Feinstein for the 1990 Governor's race.
The lack of an endorsement will not hurt the Senator's campaign, however. A January Public Policy Institute of California poll (1/21-30; 1,705 CA adults) favored Sen. Feinstein over Mr. de Leon, 46-17%, when tested in the jungle primary format. She has an even more commanding lead in campaign resources. The year-end Federal Election Commission disclosure report finds her holding just under $10 million in her campaign account as compared to an embarrassingly low $359,000 for de Leon.
In the San Diego/Orange County open 49th Congressional District (GOP Rep. Darrell Issa retiring), Democrats are optimistic about their conversion chances despite a six-point party registration deficit within the Pacific Coast district. In 2016, the 49th recorded the closest congressional vote in the country, with Mr. Issa surviving against retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D) by a slight 1,621-vote margin, while President Trump was only attracting 43.2% of the vote.
Mr. Applegate is returning to compete for the open seat, but his fundraising is lagging ($682,845 raised; $249,463 cash-on-hand) and party leaders are thinking that he might be more effective in a lower profile race. One reason that they may be willing to eschew a candidate who did so well is that two others appear to be running better early campaigns. Attorney Michael Levin (D), whose campaign committee is filed with a Sacramento address while listing his home in Long Beach, had raised $1.24 million by year's end with over $486,000 in the bank.
Former State Department official Sara Jacobs (D), who has invested more than $1 million of her own money into the campaign, shows almost $1.24 million in her campaign account.
With the Republicans fielding three established candidates, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside), Board of Equalization member and former Orange County Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point), and County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar (R-Encinitas), experience favors the GOP. All have been successful in several contested political campaigns while the Democratic candidates have won none. Therefore, Democratic leaders are trying to winnow the field in order to avoid a scenario where the party vote is split to the degree that two Republicans are able to qualify for the general election.
Survey USA ran a poll of the impending qualifying race scheduled for June 5th. Their study (2/10-13; 775 CA-49 registered voters; 510 likely June 5th jungle primary voters) finds a closely bunched field. Mr. Applegate places first, but with only 18% of the vote, with Assemblyman Chavez closely on his heels at 17%. Ms. Harkey is the only other candidate in double-digits, posting 10% preference. Mr. Levin is next with 8%, Supervisor Gaspar follows with 7%, and Ms. Jacobs records only 5% support. Clearly, this survey finds that virtually any combination of two of these candidates could reasonably expect to qualify for the general election.
Interestingly, though leading in the first poll, Mr. Applegate may be willing to switch into an open district County Supervisors' campaign. He recently moved his residence into that local seat, but may still not qualify. Under California law, one must be a resident of a particular district 30 days before the candidate filing deadline - in this case, March 9th - and it is unclear to the public whether Mr. Applegate would meet that requirement.
"Indictment Politics" by Jim Ellis
February 23, 2018
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted yesterday on one count of felony invasion of privacy. The photograph of a partially nude woman with whom he was having an affair is the subject of the felony charge. Though the extramarital affair was consensual, being photographed in a compromising position was not, hence the invasion of privacy indictment. Transmitting the photo through use of a computer makes the charge a Class E felony under Missouri law, which could mean a prison sentence of up to four years.
While the legal situation will be left to the courts to adjudicate, the political aftermath merits discussion. Though Gov. Greitens claims he will fight the charge, more often than not these situations end in reaching a legal agreement. In cases involving office holders, resigning from office is always part of any plea agreement. This was certainly the case for then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in Alabama, when he agreed to resign when the charges against him were reduced to misdemeanor campaign violations. Upon news of the indictment, Republican state legislative leaders said that they would assign a committee to investigate the charge. Such action opens the door to potential impeachment proceedings.
Should the Governor reach a plea bargain, or be found guilty and thus forced to resign his position, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson would ascend to the Governorship. A Republican, Mr. Parson becoming Governor would not result in a change of party leadership. Because Gov. Greitens was just elected in 2016, Mr. Parson, should he succeed a resigned or impeached state chief executive, would serve in the state’s top position through 2020 and be eligible to run in his own right in the ’20 election.
The Governor is moving to dismiss the charge against him, and may be able to make such arguments at his next court appearance on March 16th.
Moving to California, San Diego County Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) is under increased pressure not to file for re-election on March 9th. Enduring a FBI investigation for allegedly using campaign funds for personal expenses, Mr. Hunter has drawn two significant Democratic
opponents for the June 5th jungle primary election, and at least one viable Republican with one more possibly preparing to enter.
With a potential indictment coming, and if so the legal accusation will likely be brought after the March 9th candidate filing deadline, attention is turning to what could become a competitive 2018 election. The pair of Democrats has already raised in the neighborhood of $500,000 apiece. Jamul-Dulzura School Board member Josh Butner has attracted over $422,000 with just under $277,000 remaining in his campaign account. Former Labor Department official Ammar Campa-Najjar has done even better, amassing over $520,000 in campaign funds while holding just under $300,000 in his campaign account.
Though Rep. Hunter maintains he will run under any circumstance, other Republicans are beginning to make moves as time begins to run short. This week, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells became an official candidate with former San Diego City Councilman, and ex Mayoral and congressional candidate Carl DeMaio possibly soon following suit. And, it has long been speculated that retiring Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) would run here if Mr. Hunter did not. Rep. Issa confirms that he would consider making a race in Hunter’s adjacent 50th District, but only if the incumbent chooses not to run.
California having the jungle primary format where the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of political party affiliation creates more pressure for Republicans. If a politically wounded Hunter advances against one of the Democrats, which is a likely scenario, the party could be in position to forfeit one of their few safe California Republican districts. Additionally, because the June 5th election is not a partisan primary, the GOP would have no way of replacing Hunter on the ballot if he were to be indicted and/or forced to withdraw. Therefore, the party’s moves before the impending March 9th deadline become all the more critical and merit watching as the filing period begins drawing toward culmination.
"Setting the Stage - TX Primary" by Jim Ellis
February 22, 2018
We're now inside two weeks before the first-in-the-nation regular midterm primary election, as the Texas early voting process is now well underway in preparation for the March 6th regular primary vote.
A total of 76 candidates are running for major statewide office, meaning races for Governor, US Senator, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, Land Commissioner, and one slot on the state Railroad Commission. A record 304 Democrats, Republicans, minor party, and Independent candidates are vying for their respective party nominations in the state's 36 US House districts.
Texas is a run-off state, meaning if no candidate in the various primaries receives majority support, the top two finishers will advance to a run-off election on May 22nd. Since a vast number of races have multiple candidates, including 28 individual candidates alone fighting to succeed retiring Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) in his open central Texas CD, the secondary election calendar promises to also have a large slate of late May voting contests.
Two Democrats off to late starts are vying to face Gov. Greg Abbott (R), and though nine candidates are on the Democratic gubernatorial ballot, there remains some possibility that either Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez or businessman Andrew White, the son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D), will emerge as the party's nominee on March 6th.
It is almost a certainty that the US Senate contest will feature first-term incumbent Ted Cruz (R) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) winning their respective nomination contests outright, meaning they will soon officially begin the first general election US Senate contest in the country.
Of interest in the down ballot statewide races, incumbent Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), is being challenged by former two-term Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, among others, for the Republican nomination.
In the congressional races, eight of the seats - six Republican and two Democratic - are open and each host multi-candidate primary races. All of the incumbents have drawn some type of opposition either in March or November, but only Reps. Al Green (D-Houston), Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), and Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) face no major party opponent.
Most have at least minor primary opposition, with only Reps. Kevin Brady (R-The Woodlands), Green, Kay Granger (R-Ft. Worth), Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon/ Amarillo), Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen), Bill Flores (R-Bryan), Jodey Arrington (R-Lubbock), Castro, Roger Willams (R-Austin), Cuellar, Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville), Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), and Bruce Babin (R-Woodville) drawing no nomination challenger.
It is likely that all of the open seats will advance to a run-off vote with the possible exceptions of state Senators Van Taylor (R) winning outright in retiring Rep. Sam Johnson's (R-Plano) 3rd District, and Sylvia Garcia (D) doing likewise in the battle to replace 13-term Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) in TX-29.
Polling does indicate that billionaire Kathaleen Wall (R) and Tarrant County Tax Assessor Ron Wright (R) have outside chances of reaching the 50% threshold in the 2nd (Rep. Ted Poe-R) and 6th District (Rep. Joe-Barton-R) open primaries, respectively, but with multiple candidates in each race it becomes very difficult for any one candidate to attract majority support. On the incumbent front, all 24 House members from both parties seeking re-election are favored to win re-nomination on March 6th.
With such a large statewide and federal candidate field, and hundreds more running for the state legislature and the various judicial posts, questions arise about whether this will spike a rise in what is typically a very low primary turnout electorate. Though improving in recent elections, Texas ranks among the lowest states in primary vote participation, so it remains to be seen how the citizenry reacts to such an active early primary season. After the Texans go to the polls on the 6th, Illinois voters will follow suit on March 20th.