January 9, 2018
By: Jim Ellis
It’s getting to the point where literally everyday we witness a new retirement announcement from Congress, and yesterday was no exception.
In another surprise political decision, veteran California Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, disclosed that he will not seek a 14th term this year, preferring to dedicate his last year in Congress to finishing his committee agenda.
The move was unexpected in that Mr. Royce appeared to be preparing his political operation for a major battle. Reportedly through the year-end financial disclosure period, he already amassed a treasury exceeding $3.5 million. Until this week, his actions suggested that he was well equipped to run a strong re-election campaign.
Unlike most of the other 31 Republican seats that are being vacated for the next election, Mr. Royce’s California district has strong Democratic conversion potential. The constituency voted 51-43% for Hillary Clinton, but backed Mitt Romney 51-47% in 2012, and gave John McCain a 49-47% margin four years earlier. The Romney and McCain votes are more consistent with the district electorate’s long-term political performance history, but this area of the state, like many regions in the nation’s most populous domain, is turning more Democratic as significant demographic change continues.
Anchored in the Fullerton/Buena Park/Yorba Linda area of northern Orange County, just over 61% of the 39th’s constituents reside in the district’s dominant population center. Almost 30% live in Los Angeles, while another 10% comes from a sliver within San Bernardino County.
But it is the minority population growth that is the most relevant political story of this district, and why it can no longer be considered a reliably Republican CD. According to the US Census Bureau, 34.3% of the district’s population is Hispanic, just ahead of the Asian population, which registers 31.9%. Just 2.4% of the residents are African American, meaning that the pure Anglo population is only 14.1%.
Six Democrats had declared their candidacies months ago, but this situation will likely change in a drastic manner now that the seat is coming open. The California candidate filing deadline is March 9th, so prospective candidates have two full months to decide whether they will enter the race.
Democrats will almost assuredly to recruit state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Brea), whose 29th state legislative district is very similar in configuration to CD 39. Because California has only 40 state Senate districts and 53 CDs, Senators actually represent, on average, 250,000 more people than do members of Congress. Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Buena Park) could be another Democratic possibility. Republicans might look toward state Assemblyman Phillip Chen (R-Brea) as a prospective replacement for Rep. Royce.
Of the six Democrats currently in the race, at least two appear prominent. Gil Cisneros is a retired Navy officer who came to local fame by winning a multi-million dollar California lottery, and physician and Wall Street analyst Mai-Khanh Tran appears to be gaining traction with national liberal organizations.
Mr. Royce becomes the 47th incumbent member not to seek re-election, and 32nd Republican. Like many other chairmen who are retiring this year, Mr. Royce is in his final year of allotted service as the Foreign Affairs Committee head. He now becomes the seventh such member to opt for retirement. An eighth, Natural Resources Committee chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), has also committed to retire but at the end of his next
An Ohio Curveball
January 8, 2018
By: Jim Ellis
Most people believed the 2018 Ohio Senate general election would be a re-match of the 2012 contest, but now big changes are afoot. On Friday, presumed Republican nominee Josh Mandel, the Ohio State Treasurer, announced that he will not file for the Senate race when the deadline expires on February 7th. Unfortunately, Mr. Mandel says that his wife’s undisclosed health situation, apparently just recently diagnosed, has forced him to the political sideline. He did not indicate whether or not he would seek re-election to his current position.
Mr. Mandel was quoted as saying, "[I] recently learned that my wife has a health issue that will require my time, attention and presence," and that it "has become clear to us that it’s no longer possible for me to be away from home and on the campaign trail for the time needed to run a US Senate race," as reported on the Daily Kos Elections website.
This means there will not be a repeat performance between Mandel and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). The two ran against each other six years ago, with the Democratic incumbent winning 51-45%. At the time, Mr. Mandel, a first-term state Treasurer elected only two years before, raised an impressive $18.9 million for the race, losing by only six points while Sen. Brown had the advantage of President Obama topping the Democratic ticket and carrying the Buckeye State. In comparison, Sen. Brown expended just under $21.5 million to secure his first re-election.
Considering President Trump’s strong Ohio performance in the 2016 campaign, 52-44% over Hillary Clinton an 11-point swing toward the Republican ticket from Mr. Obama’s winning 2012 performance, Republicans were becoming somewhat optimistic about Mandel’s chances of unseating Sen. Brown later this year.
If that is to happen, it will be with a different Republican nominee. Now, the GOP must scramble to find a strong new candidate just one month before candidate filing closes.
Wealthy investment banker Michael Gibbons was already in the Senate race, challenging Mandel for the Republican nomination. Mr. Gibbons confirms he will remain a candidate in a new, more wide-open statewide GOP contest. Two current gubernatorial candidates, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), both confirm they are considering switching to the Senate race since Mandel’s departure clearly leaves a void. Undoubtedly others are considering their own political moves, and much speculation will come from the Ohio quarters in the next few days.
In October, nine-term US Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) announced that he would resign his House seat in January to take over the Ohio Business Roundtable. Late last week, Mr. Tiberi made public that he will officially vacate the seat on January 15th. This allowed Gov. John Kasich (R) to set the replacement special election calendar, which he announced on Friday.
As expected, the special primary election will run concurrently with the regular statewide primary on May 8th. The special primary winners will then advance to a special general on August 7th. The winner of the latter election will serve the balance of the current term.
Ohio’s 12th Congressional District is anchored in Franklin County, and contains all of Delaware, Licking, and Morrow counties. It then expands to include parts of Richland, Muskingum, and Marion counties. President Trump carried the seat, 53-42%, while Mitt Romney logged a similar 54-44% margin back in 2012. The eventual Republican nominee will be favored for both the impending special and then the regular election.
The current Republican announced field is comprised of state Sens. Kevin Bacon (R-Blendon Township) and Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), Delaware County prosecutor Carol O’Brien, and businessmen Brandon Grisez, and Jon Halverstadt. Democrats are lining up to contest the seat, and they feature former Ashley Mayor Doug Wilson, ex-Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, businessman and 2016 congressional nominee Ed Albertson, and three minor contenders.
New Year House Preview
January 5, 2018
By: Jim Ellis
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% (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% 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).
With Democrats having to protect 15 open seats, they look to convert as many of their opponents’ open 30 as possible. Unfortunately for them, only two seats appear ripe, one in Florida and the other in New Jersey, while 23 look to be either safely or likely Republican. The open seat category outlook could change if late judicial redistricting decisions drastically alter the political maps in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and/or Texas where Republicans are defending a total of eight open seats in the three states. Another five GOP-held districts lean R, and it is within this group where Democrats are virtually forced to run the table just to position themselves for a legitimate shot at converting the majority.
Beginning regionally in New England and the tri-state area of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, the Democrats would have to gain a net minimum of six seats to meet their power-shift quota. Though several targets appear in Upstate New York and maybe as many as four in the Garden State, defeating multi-term incumbents who have won in good Republican years and bad remains a formidable task.
The party’s road becomes much smoother, however, if the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court rules in favor of the Democrats’ lawsuit that claims the current district boundaries are a political gerrymander. If the lines are re-drawn, the party could do better than netting six seats from the northeast region. If not, such a number will be difficult to attain even in a so-called “wave” election year.
Assuming the six-seat conversion in the northeast, the Democrats must then gain two seats in Florida, and one each in Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington, and then take five of seven targeted districts in California. And, on top of all this, they must protect five of their own vulnerable seats in Nevada, Minnesota, and New Hampshire, meaning their real number to attaining the barest of majorities from the most hotly contested campaigns is actually 29…and, that assumes they re-elect all of their own incumbents who are seeking re-election.
Furthermore, and most importantly, we must remember that the Dems must achieve ALL of the aforementioned quota goals, and if so, their reward is a mere one-seat majority.
Though there are clear signs that the impending election year could be a strong one for Democrats, changing majority status remains a very tall task.