Is Challenging Nancy Pelosi A Waste Of Time?

Seventy-one-year-old attorney Stephen Jaffe doesn’t think so. The former Bernie Sanders supporter is challenging the House minority leader in 2018.

Jaffe was so much a supporter of the democratic socialist, in fact, he volunteered his services as a lawyer – filing an injunction to request re-votes and a voter registration extension in the 2016 California primary. He hopes to mirror his left-wing candidacy.

Jaffe appears to be gearing up a typical strike-from-the-left attack usually seen when Democratic heavyweights are challenged in a primary. The employment attorney is a supporter of universal healthcare, wants to abolish the Democratic Party’s super-delegate system and has been very critical of corporate donations. He feels the minority leader has strayed away from these progressive values and no longer best represents the voters of California’s 12th District.

Speaking in interviews since his announcement, Jaffe is convinced a well-orchestrated grassroots campaign can deliver him, at least, to a runoff with Pelosi. It is yet to be seen how he, a political newcomer who has never run for office before, can muster up the sort of campaign apparatus needed to unseat the woman who has been a fixture of San Francisco politics for decades.

Nancy Pelosi hasn’t exactly had issues getting re-elected over the years.

She fist entered Congress after winning a special election in 1987 – also the last time she ever participated in a candidate debate. Pelosi has gone on to win every election with an average of over 80 percent of the vote. She holds the distinction of being one of the highest contributors of campaign donations to Democratic House candidates – not only because she is the leader of her party, but because her own elections don’t require much money.

Whenever Pelosi is challenged by anyone, her campaign team has a policy of simply ignoring them.

California conducts a jungle primary system, meaning candidates of any partisan stripe face each other in an open primary. The top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, make it to the runoff. With one of the strongest Democratic voter registration advantages in the country, Republican candidates are hard pressed to make it to a runoff in the 12th District.

The congresswoman received her hardest challenge in years amid the 2016 runoff. However, the final tally still resulted in an 81 to 19 percent trounce over left-wing independent candidate Preston Picus.

When questioned on the probability of defeating the incumbent representative, Jaffe actually cited President Trump as an example – making the point that anything is possible. This argument could actually hold more merit than it normally would in recent history. Political insurgency is more rampant than ever and being labeled a member of the “establishment” is synonymous to wearing an albatross around your neck.

Rep. Dave Brat shook the political world when he successfully primaried then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014. The unexpected defeat of Cantor still inspires dark horse candidates across the country.

However, the Democratic Party can not always be compared so haphazardly with the GOP. Republicans tend to succumb to grassroots insurgency much more than their liberal counterparts. As Trump was handily making his way to the  presidential nomination of his party, the DNC was actively working to suppress Sanders’ success in Democratic primary elections. Not long after, former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz easily beat back a primary challenge from the left in her Florida district.

Jaffe is working against the leader of a party that is not warm to such insubordination.

Much like Tim Canova’s challenge against Debbie Wasserman Shultz or Paul Nehlan’s futile attempt to primary Speaker Paul Ryan – this race is one to watch, but not one to expect surprises.

 

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Gianforte Win Likely In Montana Special Election

The race to fill the vacant House seat in Montana’s at-large Congressional District will be decided on May 25. The Treasure State was left without their lone congressman when then-Rep. Ryan Zinke became Interior Secretary. During their respective state party conventions, the GOP nominated tech businessman Greg Gianforte and Democrats chose folk singer Rob Quist.

If current polls hold steady, this race will be Republican Gianforte’s to lose. The latest Emerson College survey shows the GOP candidate leading Democrat Quist 52 to 37 percent – a 15 point gap. These numbers are similar to a Gravis Marketing poll conducted earlier showing Gianforte leading by 12 points.

National Democrats, emboldened by strong performances in special House elections in Kansas and Georgia, are still investing heavily in the race in hopes of notching a victory. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will be dropping $400,000 in mail and television advertisements to boost Quist’s candidacy. This is on top of the $200,000 already invested into the race by Democratic House leadership.

The DCCC does have a few reasons for hope in the Montana race. Despite Trump winning the state just last year, Montana voters also chose to re-elect Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock on that same ballot. Gov. Bullock’s tenure was preceded by two-term Democrat Brian Schweitzer. Simply put, conservative Montana voters don’t have a problem pulling the lever for Democratic candidates.

Besides his lagging poll numbers, Quist has other issues he would have to overcome to mount a successful House bid.

The state’s single congressional seat has been occupied by the GOP since 1997. Former Rep. Zinke won re-election in 2016 by about 15 points – the same percentage lead as Gianforte’s poll numbers now.

Montana voters may have chosen to re-elect a Democrat in 2016, but the Republican contender he faced gave him a run for his money. The GOP challenger only lost by about four percentage points.

That gubernatorial candidate was Greg Gianforte.

With his brand still very fresh in voters’ minds, Gianforte brings with him big name recognition and a campaign operation still hot.

National Republicans certainly believe his campaign is worth investing in. The House Leadership Fund, a GOP-aligned super PAC, is putting another $500,000 into the race. This money will be spent on direct mail advertising and field operations. This latest contribution will make for a total of $2 million spent by House Leadership Fund in its effort to elect Gianforte. They hope to have 50 canvassers knock on 75,000 doors by Election Day.

Liberal darling Bernie Sanders has promised to campaign on behalf of Quist sometime before the May 25 election. The Montana Democrat was a supporter of the Vermont senator during the Democratic primary.

However, there’s only so much a progressive politician from New England can do. Quist has an uphill battle for this House seat.

Campaign Daily Rating: Likely Republican

 

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Ros-Lehtinen Retirement Is Exciting News For Florida Democrats

Marking an end of an era for Hispanic Republicans, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement to her hometown newspaper, The Miami Herald. She will not be running for re-election in the upcoming 2018 midterms.

During her career in politics, Ros-Lehtinen attained numerous titles. She was the first Cuban American and first Hispanic woman to be elected to Congress in 1989. She will also leave the House of Representatives as its longest serving Republican congresswoman. Before arriving on Capitol Hill, the Cuban-born politician was the first Hispanic woman to be elected to the Florida State House and State Senate. Her legacy was one that began the career for major Republican politicians of today: Jeb Bush ran her 1989 congressional campaign and Marco Rubio had interned for her at one time.

Rep. Ros-Lehtinen will also be leaving behind a strong tradition of moderation within her party. While taking hard stances on some issues, such as relations with Cuba, she bucked the Republican Party numerous times on immigration reform, abortion rights, LGBT rights and healthcare. Ros-Lehtinen is the first member of Congress to have an openly transgender child. She was the first Republican in the House to support gay marriage and she has been one of the most vocal Republican critics of President Trump.

This moderate streak has allowed her to thrive in an increasingly blue district.

Either running unopposed or wining by double digits, Ros-Lehtinen has not had much trouble getting elected. However, Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which she currently represents, is becoming more Democrat-friendly by the year. This trend reached a climax last year when the district voted for Clinton over Trump by almost 20 percentage points – the most Democratic district to be represented by a Republican. Given her legacy, Ros-Lehtinen has been able to succeed amid the change. She won re-election in 2016 by about a 10-point margin.

Now that she is retiring, the district is increasingly likely to fall into Democratic hands. Registered Democrats currently outnumber registered Republicans 37 to 34 percent, and the DNC is already on the offensive. Only a top-tier candidate could woo Republican donors into believing the 2018 race is worth investing in.

The Democrat Ros-Lehtinen beat by 10 points last year, Scott Fuhrman, has already announced he’s running again in 2018. Despite hitting the ground running with name recognition, he may not succeed in a Democratic primary where the district is around 58 percent Hispanic.

Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez has been courted by Democratic operatives in Florida and had announced her candidacy before Ros-Lehtinen declared her retirement. University of Miami academic adviser Michael A. Hepburn is also running as a Democrat.

The candidate Florida Republicans believe could be their best hope is former Miami-Dade school board member Raquel Regalado. A moderate Hispanic in the similar mold of Ros-Lehtinen, Regalado could possibly win with the same coalition of moderate Democrats and Republicans who have kept the current congresswoman into power. While not yet announcing a run, Regalado says she is giving it serious consideration.

To their merit, the Florida GOP does have an impressive list of other names considering a bid in the district. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, state Sen. Anitere Flores and state Rep. Jeanette Núñez are other names being floated around.

The outcome of this election could have major consequences on control of the House post-2018. House Democrats would need to capture 24 seats to gain control of the legislative body. It would be a steep climb to make, but the special House election in Kansas and the one currently taking place in Georgia could be an indication that Democrats are energized and may make serious gains in the midterms.

Campaign Daily Rating: Lean Democrat

 

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Should Devin Nunes Be Worried?

Rep. Devin Nunes has never had to worry about survival in California’s 22nd Congressional District. First elected in 2002, Nunes has won every general election since then by over 61 points. California may have become a hostile place for Republicans, but the voters in his Fresno-area district have never turned their back on him. In his most recent election, Nunes defeated Democratic challenger Louie Campos with a 35-point spread.

Statistically speaking, there is no trend giving the California Republican reason for concern. In D.C., however, he has placed himself into some embarrassing headlines.

As Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes was tasked with leading the House investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. After intense scrutiny that he may have mishandled classified information in an effort to shield President Trump, he has stepped down from the investigation. The House Ethics Committee is currently investigating the matter.

In comes Andrew Janz, Fresno County Deputy District Attorney.

Janz has never held elected office before, but believes he has a chance at capturing California’s 22nd District. The 33-year-old novice Democrat claims voters are “fed up” with Nunes and says the idea that he is unbeatable is a myth. Janz announced in late April that he will challenge Nunes for his seat.

There are no such things as absolutes in politics, but Nunes owning the 22nd District may just make him as close to “unbeatable” as it gets. Currently, the district boasts a 10-point Republican voter registration advantage. The Republican congressman also has deep, deep ties to the district – he hails from a three generation dairy farming family and has represented the area for almost 15 years.

In the age of Trump, however, nothing can be for certain. Nunes’ California colleague, Rep. Darrell Issa, enjoyed continuous election victories over the years by double digit margins. To the surprise of many, Issa had the fight of the political life amid the 2016 election – only beating his Democrat challenger by less than one percentage point. We see the same thing going on right now in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election.

Janz is a long shot at unseating Nunes, but nothing is a ever a done deal.

Campaign Daily Rating: Safe Republican

 

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It’s A Runoff: Ossoff Fails To Hit 50 Percent

Another blow to an already-demoralized Democratic Party.

Democrat Jon Ossoff failed to reach the 50-percent mark and avoid a runoff in the special election in the Georgia 6th District. The showdown will be between Ossoff and former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, a Republican who took home just under 20 percent.

The election will take place on June 20.

While the GOP rejoices in avoiding an embarrassing loss in a district that leans Republican – the numbers show they are not out of the woods just yet.

In all, Ossoff came home with 48.1 percent of the vote. While he was virtually the only Democrat running (his Party did an excellent job coalescing behind his candidacy), there were other Democrats on the ballot. While extremely small, their numbers may mean the difference come June.

Ragin Edwards and Ron Slotin both took in .3 percent. Rebecca Quigg captured .2 percent and Richard Keatley finished the list with .1 percent. This puts the total Democratic vote at exactly 49 percent.

On the Republican side: Handel, Bob Gray, Dan Moody, Judson Hill and all others made a combined vote total of exactly 51 percent. This means we have only a two percent difference between the two parties.

In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in this district by 1.5 percentage points. Ossoff overperformed on Clinton’s numbers last night in all three of the district’s counties – raking in above one percent more than her in Cobb, Fulton and Dekalb.

If the vote percentages of the primary stay proportional in the runoff, then we could see the winner of this race be decided by less than one percent.

For her part, this should be Karen Handel’s race to lose. The 6th District has traditionally been a Republican one – ever since New Gingrich was elected in the 70’s. Handel, the former secretary of state, has historically done well in the area. While she ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010 and senator in 2014, she had made a base of support in the northern Atlanta suburb.

Despite the Republican lean of the district and Handel’s history with it, there is a stunning show of Democratic voter enthusiasm. This (combined with Ossoff’s million-dollar war chest funded by donors outside the state) will make the race a complete toss-up and one that will be watched intently around the country.

Campaign Daily Rating: Toss-up

 

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Kansas Special Election: A Concerning Win For The GOP

Republican Ron Estes was able to keep Kansas’ 4th Congressional District in GOP hands. However, the margin of victory in such a deep-red district should serve as an alarm bell for Republicans across the country.

Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes bested his Democratic opponent James Thompson in a special election on April 11 – delivering another blow to national Democrats as their Party is still reeling from the brutal 2016 outcome. Kansas’ 4th District is a traditional Republican stronghold. President Trump won the area by 27 points while then-Rep. Mike Pompeo won by over 30 points. Back in 2012, Romney also dominated by a 25-point margin.

Surprisingly, Representative-Elect Estes only won the district by about seven points – a poor showing for a Republican and a clear indication Democrats are energized under the Trump era.

The outcome may paint a picture of what to expect in Georgia’s special election next week and for the not-so-distant 2018 mid-terms. In Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff is also polling well for such a conservative district. Should Republicans be worried that Democrats are performing so well in deep-red territory?

The short answer: yes. The long answer, though, is more complicated.

Ron Estes’ victory was shockingly competitive, but it may not be totally indicative of an unpopular president. In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is one of the most unpopular governors in the country as he is blamed for major setbacks in the Kansas state budget. The special congressional election may have been more of a referendum on Gov. Brownback than on President Trump – making the election there not completely relatable to elections elsewhere across the country.

And like Kansas, Georgias’ 6th Congressional District is unlikely to flip. Ossoff will surely make it to the run-off, but polling doesn’t indicate he will capture the district once the GOP coalesces to one specific candidate.

Despite whatever local politics may be at play in Kansas, one thing is for certain: Democrats are itching for a win.

 

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Democrat Jon Ossoff Unlikely To ‘Flip The 6th’

Despite the popular Democratic war cry, it isn’t looking like Jon Ossoff will beat the odds and “Flip The 6th.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price vacated Georgia’s 6th Congressional District when President Trump appointed him to his current position. The district has long been a Republican stronghold since the days of Newt Gingrich. However, President Trump is proving to be a big factor when it comes to courting the area’s conservative – yet affluent – constituents.

Price never had trouble winning easily in the district that encompasses the rich and educated neighborhoods of North Metro Atlanta. In 2016, he won re-election by a resounding 23-point margin. Despite this, Trump, with his blue collar appeal, barely scraped by with a one-point victory. Now that Price has left for HHS, the district is up for grabs and Democrats smell blood.

It is true that Jon Ossoff has a lot of factors going for him.

Ossoff is the unofficial standard-bearer for the Democratic side (despite several other Democrats still campaigning) whereas many Republicans are running competitively against each other. This has created an opening for Ossoff while the GOP is greatly divided. Adding to this dynamic, the special election is set up as a jungle primary – meaning all Republicans and Democrats are running against each other and the top two candidates (regardless of party) will make it to the run-off election. For Ossoff to stand a chance, he needs to reach the 50 percent mark to avoid a run-off in the deep red district.

And for a long while, it was looking like he could pull it off. Polls showed him closing in on the 50-percent threshold. Democrats nationwide have poured over $8 million on his behalf – a stunning haul for a not-so-special House race.

Despite this, recent polls out now show Ossoff losing steam and dropping below 40 percent. While he will surely make the run-off, he will have an extremely uphill battle to climb in defeating a Republican one-on-one. He will most likely face former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel in a June 20 run-off.

Ossoff had a mild set back in his campaign in March when it was revealed he embellished his resume. The former aide to Rep. Hank Johnson had top-secret clearance for five moths while he worked as a congressional staffer. However, he longed claimed on the campaign trail that his security clearance lasted for several years. It was also unearthed that Ossoff is not even currently living in the district.

Republicans, for their part, have been greatly disturbed by the Democratic enthusiasm and have responded accordingly. The National Republican Congressional Committee has increased its presence in the special election and plan to support the eventual Republican nominee. They will have to work hard to energize a Republican constituency that may be feeling complacent in a time when the GOP controls both chambers of Congress and the presidency.

The outcome of the election could prove to be very symbolic of the political atmosphere under a Trump White House.

 

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