Election Insights
Election Insights is a political analysis publication of the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC). BIPAC is an independent, bipartisan organization, that is supported by several hundred of the nation’s leading businesses and trade associations.  The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the views of our organization.


August 16, 2017
Alabama GOP Primary Runoff Set and Democratic Primary Brewing for Hawaii Governor
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

As polling correctly predicted, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Alabama Senate Republican primary earlier this week.  Scoring 39% of the statewide vote, Judge Moore finished ahead of appointed Sen. Luther Strange who attracted 33% support.  Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) ended as a distant third with 20%.  The two remaining Republicans advance to a September 26th run-off election since no one secured majority support.

While the survey research correctly forecast the Republican outcome, it badly missed on the Democratic side.  Marketing executive and retired Navy officer Robert Kennedy Jr. and ex-US Attorney Doug Jones were expected to move into a run-off, but the latter man easily won the nomination in the primary vote.  Mr. Jones scored 66% among participating Democrats, meaning he earned a ballot position for the December 12th special general election.  The eventual Republican nominee will be favored to capture the seat.  Sen. Strange was appointed to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) when the latter was appointed US Attorney General.  The December 12th winner will serve through the 2020 election cycle, at which point he will be eligible to seek a full six-year term.

Strong indications are mounting that three-term Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) will launch a challenge to Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.  Earlier, Ms. Sinema had said she planned on seeking re-election to a fourth term in the House, but now says she is "seriously considering" the Senate race.  Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D), who was making moves to enter the Senate race, will reportedly run for Sinema's open House seat should the Congresswoman ultimately decide to jump into the statewide campaign

House

After announcing a campaign for Colorado Governor, and then withdrawing, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) may again be changing his political course.  When he made a public statement leaving the Governor's race, he also said he would not return to the US House and would leave elective politics.  Now, he is apparently having second thoughts about leaving Congress, and may soon re-announce a congressional bid.  Other prominent Democrats, including a former US Ambassador and three state legislators, are hinting that they would step aside if the Congressman decides to "un-retire."

Six-term Massachusetts Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) announced that she will retire at the end of the current congressional term.  The Congresswoman's decision leaves open her 3rd CD, located in the north central/east portion of the state.  Democrats will be favored to hold, but a Republican candidate has the potential of becoming viable.  The 3rd is a district where Republican statewide candidates, such as Gov. Charlie Baker (R) who will be on the ballot in 2018, must carry to have any chance of winning the state.  Therefore, more attention will be paid to this open seat next year. 

Massachusetts holds a September primary, so the race will take more than a year to formulate.  Crowded primaries in both parties are expected.  Ms. Tsongas, the widow of former Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Paul Tsongas, was elected in a 2007 special election when then-Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Lowell) resigned to become a university president.

The Utah special election for the state's open 3rd District was held August 15th, and Republicans nominated Provo Mayor John Curtis for the November 7th special general election.  Democrats previously chose Dr. Kathryn Allen in a March convention, so she automatically moved into the general. 

Mr. Curtis defeated two other Republicans, including convention-endorsed former state Rep. Chris Herrod.  He notched 31% of the vote, ten points behind Curtis, but three ahead of marketing executive Tanner Ainge.  The latter two bypassed the state endorsement convention and petitioned their way onto the ballot.  Mayor Curtis is now a heavy favorite to capture the seat in November.  Hillary Clinton failed to even place second in this eastern Utah district during the 2016 election.

Governor 

While the Alabama special Senate primary has dominated the state's political news, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is reportedly informing key state legislators that she will seek election to a full term next year.  Ms. Ivey, formerly the state's Lt. Governor, assumed the Governorship in April when then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain, has so far not publicly indicated whether she will run next year.  Eight Republicans, however, including three statewide elected officials, a Mayor, and a local official, have announced their candidacies.  Therefore, we will see a highly competitive gubernatorial primary here next year.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) may be headed for a serious Democratic primary fight.  Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) is not denying that she is considering challenging him.  The same is true for Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho.  Earlier polling suggested Gov. Ige was falling into negative approval rating territory, and his fundraising is lacking.  The latest disclosure reports reveal he has only $250,000 in his campaign account.  This situation is worth monitoring.


August 9, 2017
Reports Barletta to Run for Senate and Special Elections in UT & AL Next Week   
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

The Alabama special primary elections are now less than a week away, and the Republican battle continues to remain close.  Several polls are in the public domain and each show that the nine-person GOP race has winnowed to three candidates, one of whom will be eliminated come Tuesday.  At this point, all research studies agree that former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is running first, capturing a solid 30-33%.  Appointed Sen. Luther Strange runs second, but Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) is within the margin of error of qualifying for the run-off in most polls.  It is clear that the Republicans will be forced to a September 26th run-off election between the top two finishers on August 15th, since no one is close to majority support.  President Trump now endorsing Sen. Strange could give the appointed incumbent the added boost he needs to clinch a run-off slot. 

The Democrats, on the other hand, may well nominate a candidate on Tuesday.  Either marketing executive and retired Navy officer Robert Kennedy Jr. or ex-US Attorney Doug Jones could win the nomination outright in the August 15th special Democratic primary.  The special general is scheduled for December 12th. 

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette), as expected, will imminently announce his US Senate campaign.  Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) has informally declared his candidacy and will do so definitively in the coming days.  State Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) became a candidate earlier this week.  The eventual Republican nominee will face vulnerable first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the general election.

Perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian, fresh from a 2016 one-point congressional loss in the 2016 District 3 general election, announced that he will challenge Sen. Dean Heller in next year's Republican primary.  Though Sen. Heller will be favored for re-nomination, Tarkanian does have a Republican base and could cause the Senator to tack right in order to win re-nomination.  Ironically, the more competitive Republican primary could spur action on the Democratic side, too.  Seeing that Heller could be even weaker going into the general election could encourage Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) to enter the Democratic primary.  Within the last two weeks she confirmed interest in doing so.  Freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson), who defeated Tarkanian in November, is already an announced Democratic Senate candidate.

Pennsylvania US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) has reportedly decided to enter the 2018 US Senate contest in hopes of challenging Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), according to the Associated Press.  The reporter indicates that Mr. Barletta will make an official campaign announcement in the coming weeks.  Already in the Republican primary are state Reps. Rick Saccone and Jim Christiana, along with businessmen Jeff Bartos and Paul Addis, Berwick Borough Councilman Andrew Shecktor, and retired National Security Council staff member Cynthia Ayers.  US Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler/Erie), who was also considering the statewide run, announced instead that he will seek a fifth term in the House.

House

Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, who has run unsuccessfully for both the Senate and House, announced that he will seek a Republican primary re-match with Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), a race that was decided by just 134 votes in 2016.  At the time, however, Rep. Pittenger's business was under FBI investigation (closed with no charges filed), and, because of the court-ordered redistricting decision, the constituency was 60% new to the incumbent.  With both of those obstacles cleared, Mr. Pittenger should have an easier time in the primary this year.  An anti-incumbent sentiment among Republican primary voters, however, could put this and many other seats in play.

The Utah special election for the state's open 3rd District will also be held on Tuesday, August 15th.  There, Republicans will nominate a candidate to advance to the November 7th special general election.  Democrats previously nominated Dr. Kathryn Allen in a March convention, so she automatically moved into the general. 

Three Republicans are vying for the party nomination: convention-endorsed former state Rep. Chris Herrod, Provo Mayor John Curtis, and marketing executive Tanner Ainge.  The latter two bypassed the state endorsement convention and petitioned their way onto the ballot.  Mayor Curtis has raised the most political cash, but at least two outside organizations are spending in the last week for Herrod and Ainge.  The Club for Growth is backing Herrod with advertising that attacks both Curtis and Ainge.  Freedom Works and the Senate Conservatives Fund are also actively supporting Herrod.  A new Super PAC entitled "Conservative Utah" is spending $140,000 in the final days to support Mr. Ainge.  The GOP winner will be a heavy favorite to capture the seat.  Hillary Clinton failed to even place second in this district last November.

Governor 

Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who will become Governor when incumbent Sam Brownback (R) is confirmed to his new federal appointment, announced that he will run for a full term in 2018.  He will have company in the GOP primary as Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer have already announced their candidacies, along with prominent oil businessman Wink Hartman, and two former state legislators. 

A new Public Policy Polling survey (8/1-2; 672 ME likely GOP primary voters) delivers bad news for Sen. Susan Collins (R) as she ponders whether to enter the Governor's race.  According to PPP, former Health Department Secretary Mary Mayhew would lead the four-term Senator in a closed Republican primary, 44-33%. 

In an expected political move, Tennessee US Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) announced that she will enter the open race for Governor.  Rep. Black, chair of the House Budget Committee, is serving her fourth term in the House after multiple terms in both houses of the state legislature.  With Gov. Bill Haslam (R) ineligible to seek a third term, Rep. Black can be considered the favorite for the GOP nomination, and to win the general election.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice used President Trump's rally in the Mountain State's city of Huntington to announce his move to the Republican Party.  Mr. Justice, who ran as a conservative, said he can no longer help the people of West Virginia as a Democratic Governor.  His move to the Republicans now gives the party a record 34 state houses, and drops the Democrats to an all-time low of fifteen.


August 2, 2017
Polling the Alabama/Michigan Senate Races, Two Open House Seats, and Kansas/Ohio Statewide Political News
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Two new Alabama Senate polls change the Republican primary outlook.  The Cygnal research company, a local Montgomery entity, released the results of its independent GOP primary poll for the upcoming August 15th special primary.  The survey (7/20-21; 500 AL likely GOP primary voters) finds appointed Sen. Luther Strange now moving into first place with 30%, followed by former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore with 26%, and US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) now trailing with 16 percent.  

Mobile's Research Strategies, Inc. (7/24; 3,000 AL registered voters) also finds Sen. Strange leading former Judge Moore by a similar margin, 35-33%, with Rep. Brooks registering the same 16%.  Mr. Brooks, however, is just now beginning his campaign advertising for the stretch run.  A likely September 26th run-off will become necessary, and should feature two of the three aforementioned candidates.  

Several polls have come forth in the last week to show that entertainer Robert Ritchie (Kid Rock) is competitive against Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).  Though the first Delphi Analytics poll that finds Ritchie leading Sen. Stabenow is largely discredited, two more reliable pollsters are also seeing a close race developing.  The Trafalgar Group (7/25-27; 1,078 MI likely voters) sees Ritchie pulling ahead of Sen. Stabenow, 49-46%, when those saying they are "leaning" to one of the candidates are included.  

Target-Insyght (released to the LA Times 7/31; 800 MI registered voters) doesn't quite see Ritchie leading, but posts Sen. Stabenow to a 50-42% lead, certainly suggesting that the fledging potential candidate could become viable.

Montana state Insurance Commissioner and Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) announced that he will challenge Sen. Jon Tester (D) next year, becoming the first Big Sky statewide official to enter the Senate race.  Though Sen. Tester must be favored for re-election, the Republican Party leadership believes this will become a top tier challenge campaign.

House

Maryland US Representative John Delaney announced that he will not seek re-election and passes upon running for Governor in order to enter the 2020 presidential campaign.  The Congressman is independently wealthy, reportedly controlling more than $100 million in assets, thus assuring that he will be able to fund a credible early effort.  He plans to be immediately targeting Iowa, hoping to become familiar with the Hawkeye State electorate before the 2020 Democratic Caucuses are held.

Tennessee veteran US Rep. John J. "Jimmy" Duncan Jr. (R-Knoxville) announced that he will retire next year.  Mr. Duncan was first elected in a 1988 special election held to succeed his late father, John J. Duncan Sr. (R), who held the seat for 23 years.  Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (R), who had already scheduled a political news conference for later this week, is now expected to become the first major contender for the open CD.  The move means there will be at least 18 open House seats in the regular election, eleven Republican held.  The GOP has held this particular region since 1866, so the chances of a Democratic conversion occurring here in 2018 are very slim.

Governor

President Trump appointing Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) as US Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom means that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) will ascend to the Governor's position upon the former's confirmation.  Though Mr. Colyer has not yet announced his gubernatorial campaign, it has been a foregone conclusion that he will enter the race.  Now, he will do so as the sitting incumbent.  Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and an announced gubernatorial candidate, says Mr. Colyer becoming Governor will not greatly change the Republican primary.   

The Tarrance Group, polling for the American Freedom Builders conservative organization (7/24-26; 800 OH likely Republican primary voters) tested the political all-star Ohio Republican gubernatorial primary, making this the first public poll of this particular budding statewide nomination battle.  According to the results, Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine claims first place with 42% preference.  Secretary of State Jon Husted commands 18% support, while Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor follows at 11%, and US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) registers 5 percent support.  

Democrats are expecting Consumer Federal Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray, Ohio's former Attorney General, to return and run for Governor.  Already in the Democratic field are former US Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley), state Senator and ex-Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.  Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.


July 26, 2017
Hardy Out for 2018 NV Run and Clearing Up Virginia Polling
by Jim Ellis

Senate

The early-year speculation that actor and California former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was considering a Senate campaign has finally been quelled.  In typical Schwarzenegger fashion, he indicated to a Politico reporter that being one of one hundred is "not his style," and that he will not run.  The idea of Mr. Schwarzenegger becoming a Senate candidate was generally considered a lark.  It would only have occurred if Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) decided to retire and he entered the campaign as an Independent.  With his relationship to the Republican base all but shattered, the outside approach would have been Schwarzenegger's only realistic scenario of securing an outside chance to win.

Hawaii US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) will not launch a primary challenge to Sen. Mazie Hirono (D).  Despite having more than $2.1 million in the bank, Ms. Gabbard signaled that the speculation about her seeking higher office will cease.  Over the past weekend, she publicly endorsed Sen. Hirono for re-election.  The Gabbard challenge talk died rapidly once it became public that Sen. Hirono is fighting kidney cancer.  The 69-year old first-term lawmaker says her prognosis is positive and the disease is not stopping her from seeking re-election.

A new Indiana poll suggests that next year's US Senate general election will be a toss-up affair.  The OnMessage consulting firm's new survey (7/10-12; 400 IN GOP likely primary voters) for Rep. Luke Messer's (R-Greensburg/ Muncie) potential campaign finds their client and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) tied at 23% in the Republican primary ballot test preference.  Both are unannounced Senate candidates, but the two appear headed to the statewide contest with an equal share of campaign resources.  Each has just over $2 million in their federal bank accounts.  The eventual GOP nominee faces vulnerable Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). 

The recently often-cited poll credited to Delphi Analytica that posts rock star Robert Ritchie (Kid Rock) to a 30-26% lead over Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) appears to be bogus.  No trace of the poll can be found on any website, and a three-term Senator with generally favorable approval scores having only a 26% preference figure is suspect to say the least. 

House

Arizona former US Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) completed her political move to Tucson.  During a weekend event, Ms. Kirkpatrick confirmed speculation that she will join the growing field of Democrats vying to challenge two-term Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson).  In addition to the former Congresswoman, 2016 nominee Matt Heinz, ex-state Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D-Tucson), a former Assistant US Army Secretary, and three businessmen are already in the Democratic primary.  Ms. Kirkpatrick represented the sprawling 1st District for three non-consecutive terms, leaving in the 2016 election cycle to challenge Sen. John McCain (R).  She would fall to the veteran Senator, 54-40%, and, with a Democrat succeeding her in the 1st District, moving to the southeastern CD seemed to be her best political option.  She is not a lock, however, even to win the Democratic primary in her new district, as the other candidates are substantial and at least two of them have at least a small voting base from which to begin.

Nevada Former US Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite), who had toyed with running for his former 4th District or even moving to the state's open southern 3rd District, says he will not be on the ballot for any race in 2018.  Mr. Hardy won his Democrat-leaning seat in 2014, but lost to current Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) in the subsequent high turnout presidential election year.  

Governor 

Appointed South Carolina Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant (R) appears ready to challenge new Gov. Henry McMaster (R) in next year's GOP primary.  At the end of last week, Mr. Bryant filed a financial committee in preparation for the gubernatorial run.  Mr. McMaster was the elected Lt. Governor, but ascended to the Governor's office once incumbent Nikki Haley (R) was appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations.  Mr. Bryant, then a state Senator, was subsequently chosen by the legislature to replace McMaster as Lt. Governor. 

If a Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist is correct, the already crowded Ohio Governor's race will soon get another participant.  Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray, the state's former Attorney General, will reportedly resign his position and return to Ohio for purposes of entering the Governor's race.  The move is expected by September.  Already in the Democratic primary are former Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley), Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, state Senator and former Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich.  Republicans feature an all-star political list: Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth).  Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

A Monmouth University poll (7/20-23; 502 VA likely voters) for the 2017 Virginia Governor's race is attracting a great deal of attention around the state because the ballot test shows Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie deadlocked with 44% apiece.  In looking at the polling methodology it appears the polling sample skews slightly Republican, however; therefore, Gillespie trailing by a small margin is likely the more accurate projection.


July 19, 2017
Tough Alabama Primary for Strange and Challenger Steps Up for Alaska Governor
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

It appears that internal polling data from the Alabama Senate race is showing that appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) is teetering in the August 15th Republican primary.  What seems clear is that the contest is evolving into a three-way race among Mr. Strange, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville).  It is likely that two of those three will advance to a September 26th run-off because it is doubtful that any individual will capture a majority of the Republican primary voters next month.

Last week, we reported upon the Remington Research poll that found four different Republicans leading Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), all by single digits.  The Club for Growth organization added Attorney General Josh Hawley to its own ballot test poll and found him leading the Senator, 46-42%.

The Missouri Congresswoman who was most openly considering running for the Senate, US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia), decided not to run statewide in 2018, and instead is choosing to seek re-election to a fifth term in the House.  The move may suggest that Attorney General Hawley is on the brink of joining the race.  Mr. Hawley appears to be the national Republican leadership's top choice as McCaskill's challenger. 

Salt Lake County at-large Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (D), daughter of former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson (D), declared her candidacy against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) this week.  Mr. Hatch appears to be running for an eighth term, but still leaves the door open to retire.  Though Ms. Wilson may prove a credible candidate, it is highly unlikely that a Democrat can win a 2018 Utah statewide race.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced his campaign for US Senate this week.  The move had been expected.  Mr. Morrisey will face Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) in the GOP primary, with the winner advancing to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the fall of 2018.  Morrisey wasted no time in reminding the GOP electorate that Mr. Jenkins only became a Republican in 2013, after serving 16 years as a Democratic state legislator.  This will be an active primary campaign with a competitive general election to follow.

House

Orange County (California) Democrats continue to see new candidates coming forward to tackle entrenched Republican congressional incumbents.  Two more announced their candidacies against twelve-term Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  In what could be a first in the world of US House races, a multi-million dollar California lottery winner, Gil Cisneros who won $266 million in 2010, is now a congressional candidate.  Former Commerce Department official and ex-congressional aide Sam Jammal also declared his candidacy.  This brings the total number of Democrats opposing Mr. Royce to four.  Moving toward the Orange County coastline, Nestle company executive Michael Kotick became the seventh Democrat to launch a campaign against 15-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). 

Angie Craig, the Democratic healthcare executive who was favored to win the marginal southeastern Minneapolis suburban district in 2016 but instead fell to now-freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury), is coming back.  Ms. Craig announced that she will seek a re-match with the new Congressman next year.  Mr. Lewis is off to a strong fundraising start.  He raised over $550,000 through the off year's second quarter, more than half the amount he originally spent to win.  In 2016, Craig had a 4:1 spending advantage but still failed to succeed.

Governor 

Alaska Independent Gov. Bill Walker, who has yet to declare that he is running for a second term, has drawn his first serious opponent.  State Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R), who left the Senate Republican Caucus because the party budget proposal spent too much public money, announced that he will be a gubernatorial candidate next year.  Gov. Walker's personal approval ratings are low - he ranks as the eighth least popular Governor on the new Morning Consult national gubernatorial overview - so this 2018 campaign could become highly competitive.

Policy consulting firm owner and former congressional staffer Maya Rockeymoore is likely to soon enter the growing field of Democrats vying to challenge Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) next year.  Ms. Rockeymoore is the wife of veteran Baltimore city Congressman Elijah Cummings (D).  Six Democrats have already announced, including former NAACP president Ben Jealous and Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker.

Financial disclosure statements are being released in some states, most prevalently in the 2017 Virginia Governor's race.  Both Lt. Governor Ralph Northam (D) and Republican Ed Gillespie have done well since winning their respective June primaries.  While Mr. Gillespie raised about $250,000 less than Lt. Gov. Northam ($1.75 million as compared to $2 million), the former's cash-on-hand is much stronger: $3.2 million to $1.8 million.  Having greater resources is an advantage Gillespie must have if he is to cut into Northam's early lead.

The Morning Consult organization ran their regular approval ratings survey of all 50 US Governors, questioning more than 195,000 voters across the country during a period that began in early April and concluded last week.  Their results found Republicans holding the top ten approval scores, but also eight of the ten lowest ratios.  The three most positively viewed Governors were Charlie Baker (R-MA), Larry Hogan (R-MD), and Matt Mead (R-WY).  The least favorable were Chris Christie (R-NJ), Sam Brownback (R-KS), and Dan Malloy (D-CT).


July 12, 2017
Rosen to Challenge Heller and Perlmutter Not Running in 2018 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

On the heels of Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) deciding not to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year, Remington Research tested the Missouri electorate to determine how other prospective candidates might fare.  Surprisingly, however, RR did not test Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), the man creating the most political buzz as a potential candidate.  The poll (7/7-8; 928 MO registered voters) actually finds several Republican potential candidates already topping the incumbent Senator. 

The individual most openly considering the race, US Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia), notched a 48-44% advantage over Sen. McCaskill in the poll.  Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-St. Elizabeth/Jefferson City) does best, scoring a 50-43% margin.  Also leading McCaskill are state Treasurer Eric Schmitt (49-45%) and Rep. Jason Smith (R-Salem/Cape Girardeau), 48-45%.

As she promised last week, freshman Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Las Vegas) announced her US Senate candidacy and the Democratic establishment is already falling into line behind her.  Upon the official announcement, freshman Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) publicly endorsed Ms. Rosen's effort, as did fellow Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  This, even though Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) still maintains that she is considering her own Senate candidacy.  Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) engineered all the moves, thus likely setting up a major Senate race confrontation with Republican incumbent Dean Heller, who is clearly the most vulnerable GOP incumbent standing for re-election next year.

House

With US Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Las Vegas) now in the Nevada Senate race, the open 3rd District will witness another close open seat campaign.  In November, both President Trump and Rep. Rosen won the district by one percentage point.  Republican state Sen. Scott Hammond has already registered a campaign account with the Federal Election Commission but has yet to officially announce his congressional candidacy, and now former 4th District Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) is said to be considering hopping into the open CD.  We can expect a group of Republicans and Democrats to be soon vying for this swing seat that stretches from south Las Vegas all the way to the Arizona and California borders.

In a related story, Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony (R) announced his candidacy for the 4th District, potentially creating a GOP primary battle for the right to challenge Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) in the adjacent CD. 

Pennsylvanian Christina Hartman, who attracted some national Democratic attention and raised over $1 million for her open seat battle against Republican state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) last November, is returning for a re-match.  The 16th District is traditionally Republican, so Mr. Smucker's 54-43% wasn't particularly surprising.  Three other Democrats have already announced their candidacies, so Ms. Hartman does not have clear sailing to the party nomination.  The Democrats' redistricting lawsuit looms large over the state.  If successful and the districts are re-drawn, then the Keystone State becomes a political wild card in the 2018 elections.

Former US Rep. Pete Gallego (D-TX), who won the sprawling West Texas 23rd District in 2012 but was defeated in 2014, and then lost a follow-up re-match last November, looks ready to try again.  Mr. Gallego recently formed a new congressional exploratory committee.  Though he has twice lost to current incumbent Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), the district was recently declared illegal by the special three-judge panel hearing the Democrats' redistricting lawsuit claims.  With a district very likely to be re-drawn, all bets are off as to how an impending 2018 campaign might end.

Rep. John Carter (R-TX) has had relatively little re-election competition since he first won his Central Texas 31st District back in 2002.  He may have just drawn his toughest opponent, however.  Former Air Force combat pilot Mary Jennings (MJ) Hegar announced her candidacy this past week.  She is a Distinguished Flying Cross medal winner and was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Afghanistan.  She is the author of the book, "Shoot Like a Girl: One Woman's Dramatic Flight in Afghanistan and on the Home Front," and could become a formidable candidate despite the district's strong Republican nature.

Governor 

Colorado US Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) surprised everyone by deciding to withdraw from the open Governor's race after just three months of active campaigning.  The Congressman also reiterated that he won't seek re-election, reportedly losing his desire to compete in elective politics.  Mr. Perlmutter's decision leaves US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, and businessmen Noel Ginsburg and Adam Garrity as substantial Democratic gubernatorial candidates.  Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.  Regional District Attorney George Brauchler is viewed to be the leading Republican candidate.  The open 7th Congressional District will likely remain Democratic.

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) announced that he will enter the state's open Governor's race.  Mr. Pearce is serving his seventh non-consecutive term in the House.  He was first elected in 2002, but vacated to run unsuccessfully for US Senate six years later.  He re-captured the southern 2nd Congressional District in 2010.  If successful in winning the GOP nomination, he would likely face fellow US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) in the statewide general election.  Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.


July 5, 2017
Wagner Out of MO Senate Race and Arizona Democrats File to Face Flake 
by Jim Ellis 
 
Senate

Politics are heating up in the impending Arizona US Senate race.  Both Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) and state Rep. Randy Friese, MD, (D-Tucson) used the healthcare legislation debate late last week to signal that they are each considering entering the statewide race to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake (R).  Both would be formidable nominees, and would certainly move Arizona firmly into a top tier challenge situation for the Democrats.  Mayor Stanton is in his second term, after serving twelve years on the Phoenix City Council.  Rep. Friese is the doctor who saved then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D-Tucson) life after she was tragically shot during a constituent event.  He was later elected to the state legislature.  US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) also remains as a potential candidate.

Missouri US Rep. Ann Wagner (R-St. Louis County) surprised national Senate observers with her holiday announcement that she will not challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year, but instead will seek re-election.  Ms. Wagner said her desire to continue fully representing her home constituency greatly influenced her decision.  The move could signal that Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), who former Sen. John Danforth, ex-Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and major donor Sam Fox have been very publicly encouraging to run, is moving closer toward entering the race.  Despite Ms. Wagner's decision not to run, the Missouri race is still in the very top tier of Republican conversion opportunity races.

House

A competitive 2018 House Republican primary is brewing in central Florida.  Late last week state Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando) announced that he will challenge freshman Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) in a newly-drawn 7th District in which either party could win in any election.  Early this week, state Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) said after the Miller announcement that he is "98% likely" to also run.  This would yield a late August competitive primary that gives the winner little time to focus on Ms. Murphy.  The new Congresswoman defeated veteran Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park) in the 2016 campaign, doing so with a 51.5% victory percentage.  This race will rate high on the Republican conversion target list.

Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano is likely to draw a potentially competitive primary challenger, possibly one of the first examples of what could become a contentious nomination trend that we may see in congressional races developing around the country.  Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazen, who has already announced that he won't seek re-election, has not yet said he will run for Congress but told a Boston Globe reporter that he is preparing for a 2018 campaign.  In his last re-election for the city council, Mr. Mazen was the top vote getter in the at-large Cambridge campaign.  His problem, however, is that only 7% of the city's population lies in Capuano's 7th District.  The Congressman was first elected in 1998.  He has had little in the way of opposition ever since, but did fail badly in a statewide bid for US Senate, finishing a poor second to then-Attorney General Martha Coakley in the 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.  Coakley then lost to Republican Scott Brown in a race that drew national attention.

Last week we reported that New York State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D), announced he will enter the congressional primary in order to oppose freshman Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford).  Surprisingly, a year before what could be a competitive primary, US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has now already gone public with his endorsement of Mr. Brindisi. The 22nd District will host a highly competitive general election campaign.  Rep. Tenney won a three-way contest last November with only 44% of the vote and retired Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) hinted last week that he is considering a political comeback attempt, but not under a major party banner.  College professor Patrick Madden is the only other Democrat in the race so far.

Pennsylvania Democrats are on the threshold of scoring a major recruit to oppose four-term Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford).  State Sen. Daylin Leach (D) is reportedly preparing a candidate announcement for later in the month.  Though he may face some primary opposition, Sen. Leach as the party nominee would mean giving Rep. Meehan a stiff challenge in a marginal political district.  The situation would become cloudier if the Democrats' state redistricting lawsuit results in a congressional map re-draw, a situation that would place Rep. Meehan's irregularly constructed 7th District at the focal point of any new mapping process.

Governor 

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox filed an exploratory committee to seek the Democratic nomination for Alabama Governor late this week.  About two weeks ago, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb declared her candidacy, thus setting up what could be a Democratic primary.  Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who ascended to the position when Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign, has yet to say whether she will seek a full term.  Four Republicans have already declared, including Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.  What should be a safe Republican open seat race is quickly becoming a campaign of competitive interest.  The intensity will grow even greater if Gov. Ivey ultimately decides to retire.


June 28, 2017
Tester Challenger Comes Forward and Arizona Comeback for Kirkpatrick  
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

County District Judge Russell Fagg (R) is retiring from the bench later this year and looks to be organizing a potential run against Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D).  Republicans are searching for a stronger candidate than state Sen. Al Olszewski and businessman Troy Downing, and Judge Fagg appears to have the potential of becoming a more viable contender.  Though Sen. Tester's vote may be more liberal than the average Montanan, his statewide organization and personal connection with voters is going to make him very difficult to beat in the next election.  The Senator will be seeking a third term in 2018.

The first Nevada Senate poll featuring Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) challenging first term Sen. Dean Heller (R) was released this week.  Public Policy Polling, surveying for Planned Parenthood (6/23-25; 648 NV registered voters), not surprisingly found a dead heat between the two candidates in what is becoming one of the few truly swing states within the American electorate.  Before slanted push questions about the healthcare bill and Planned Parenthood's image were posed, the ballot test gave Rep. Rosen a slight 42-41% edge over Sen. Heller.  The latter is clearly the most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election, and we can count on a tight finish next year in the Silver State.

Reports emanating from people close to North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D) say her re-election decision originally planned for summer is now likely to unfold "months" from now.  At-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) is also non-committal about launching a race against the first-term Senator.

House

Arizona former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff), who lost 54-41% to incumbent John McCain (R) in the 2016 Senate race, has officially moved to Tucson.  This week, she filed an exploratory committee to test the waters against two-term Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson).  Six other Democrats are already in the 2nd District race, including 2016 nominee Matt Heinz and former state Rep. Bruce Wheeler, so Ms. Kirkpatrick must traverse a competitive primary before earning a chance to oppose Rep. McSally should she choose to become a candidate.

Michael Eggman, the two-time Democratic challenger to northern California Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto), announced this week that he will not make a third attempt.  Five Democrats have already come forward in this politically marginal district, including former Riverbank City Councilwoman Dotty Nygard and venture capitalist Josh Harder.  Rep. Denham defeated Mr. Eggman with 52 and 56% of the vote in 2016 and '14, respectively.

Kansas State Senate President Susan Wagle (R) is apparently not ruling out challenging new Congressman Ron Estes (R-Wichita) in the Republican primary next year.  Sen. Wagle confirmed she is not ruling out such an effort, and did not close the door on entering the open Governor's race.

Former one-term Nebraska Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha) announced that he will seek a re-match with the man who unseated him last fall, freshman Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion).  The Omaha congressional seat is marginal, and the electorate has defeated incumbents in the last two general elections.  This will clearly be a race to watch.

New York State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D), who is more centrist than most NY Democratic candidates, announced that he will enter the congressional primary next year.  He hopes to oppose freshman Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) who won a three-way contest last November with 44% of the vote.  Former Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) hinted last week that he is considering a political comeback attempt, but would not run under a major party banner.  College professor Patrick Madden is the only other Democrat in the race so far.

Archie Parnell (D), who held newly elected Rep. Ralph Norman (R) to a scant 51-48% South Carolina special election last week, says he hasn't decided whether to enter the regular 2018 campaign.  Mr. Parnell exceeded electoral expectations, but a regular election turnout model should give Rep. Norman a definitive boost.  The special election drew less than 88,000 voters, about half of what we will see next year.

Governor 

Connecticut state Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. (D-Branford), who earlier in the year said he was 90% sure that he would enter the open race for Governor, now says he will not run.  Six other Democrats, including State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and two mayors are already in the race.  Nine Republicans have become candidates.  Gov. Dan Malloy (D) is not seeking a third term.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett became the first Republican to announce a primary challenge to new Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.  Mr. Corbett plans to run a contrast campaign, saying there is a "lack of leadership" in state government.  Gov. Reynolds, the state's former Lt. Governor, is filling the final portion of Gov. Terry Branstad's (R) term.  The longest-serving Governor in American history resigned in May to accept his appointment as US Ambassador to China in the Trump Administration.  Seven Democrats have already announced.  A competitive campaign from start to finish is expected here.

The first candidate came forward in the open Nevada Governor's race at the end of last week.  Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, fresh from his re-election victory in November, officially declared his intentions to run for the state's top office.  Should he capture the Democratic nomination, Mr. Sisolak will likely face Attorney General Adam Laxalt who is the favorite on the Republican side.  The first polling, released in May, gave Mr. Laxalt a decided lead over Mr. Sisolak.  Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is not eligible to seek a third term.


June 21, 2017
Senate Candidates Emerge in Michigan & Nevada and Close Call in SC 5
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Last week we reported that Michigan former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young (R) was considering running against three-term US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D).  This week, Justice Young confirmed that he will formally announce his challenge next week.  Lena Epstein, a local Troy businesswoman who was President Trump's Michigan co-chair, is also an announced candidate.

Nevada Democrats have been searching for a candidate to challenge Sen. Dean Heller (R) next year, and have apparently found one.  Reports suggest that freshman US Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) will announce her Senate candidacy next week, and begins the race armed with strong support from former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).  Mr. Heller is viewed as the most vulnerable of the eight Senate Republicans standing for election next year.

House

In a June 20th special election, Jon Ossoff, the Democratic party candidate who set an all-time fundraising record - maybe as high as $33 million when all of the final accounting statistics are released - lost to Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel in a 52-48% margin from a huge turnout of almost 260,000 voters.

Aggregate spending in this race will likely top $50 million, which is almost ten times the high limit previously spent on races of this type.  The Republican turnout apparatus performed well, obviously coming to parity with their Democratic counterparts - an element that the end result and total number of participating individuals proved. 

Once again, we saw most pollsters getting the race wrong.  Looking at the 20 special general election publicly released polls, 13 predicted Ossoff leading, while only four detected a Handel advantage.  Over-emphasizing the Trump-Clinton presidential election, a contest that the Republican nominee won by only 1.5 percentage points in this district, likely skewed the majority of polling samples for this congressional campaign. 

South Carolina Republican former state Representative Ralph Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell in the other 6/20 special congressional election, but by only a 51-49% margin from a low turnout of just under 88,000 voters.  The Palmetto State campaign was one that Democratic Party strategists virtually conceded from the outset, funded to only perfunctory levels, and yet the nominee did better than their favored Georgia candidate.  While Ossoff had $23.6 million in campaign receipts through the May 31st Federal Election Commission disclosure period, Mr. Parnell could only manage to raise $763,000, yet the latter man ended with a closer electoral result.

Florida law professor Tim Canova, who challenged veteran Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) in the Democratic primary last year, and spent almost $4 million in doing so, is coming back for a re-match.  Mr. Canova announced this week that he will return to the Wasserman Schultz race after considering a primary challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson.  Despite his heavy spending last year, getting Bernie Sanders' endorsement, and a lot of national attention, Canova fared rather poorly against Wasserman Schultz, losing 57-43%.  After that performance, Canova's 2018 prospects dim considerably.

Governor 

New Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has yet to say whether she will seek a full term next year, but other candidates aren't waiting.  Already five Republicans are in the race, including state Auditor John McMillan and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.  Now, the Democrats have a candidate, too.  Former state Supreme Court Judge Sue Bell Cobb announced her candidacy, meaning the general election has a chance of becoming competitive depending upon the national climate.  Gov. Ivey's long decision-making process about whether to run could possibly be signaling that she will not seek election to a full term.

The first poll for the New Jersey Governor's general election race was released at the end of last week.  Quinnipiac University went into the field (6/7-12; 1,103 NJ registered voters) to test new nominees Phil Murphy, the Democratic former US Ambassador to Germany and a Wall Street executive, and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno who won the Republican nomination.  The results give Mr. Murphy a huge 55-26% lead, with Republican political leaders doing badly on approval polls.  Outgoing Gov. Chris Christie, for example, scores a record low job approval rating of 15:81% positive to negative.

Harper Polling also released the first post-primary survey for the Virginia Governor's campaign.  According to their June 14-16 poll of 500 VA likely voters, conducted just as the June 13th primary concluded, Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Republican former national party chairman Ed Gillespie are tied at 46% apiece.  This is a surprising poll result since Northam's primary performance was surprisingly good, while Gillespie finished his nomination campaign in disappointing fashion.


June 14, 2017
Georgia 6th Polling Tie and Virginia Governor Primary Surprises   
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Former Michigan state Supreme Court Judge Robert Young (R) is now expected to announce a challenge to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) sometime next week.  Judge Young was on the Republican recruitment list, so him entering the race will move the state to a higher position on the GOP conversion target list.

Montana Republicans still do not have a top tier candidate to challenge two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D).  This past week, Attorney General Tim Fox (R), a major Senate recruitment target, said he will not run.  Montana is viewed as a top GOP conversion target, but with Ryan Zinke now Interior Secretary, Greg Gianforte winning the replacement special election to the US House, and Mr. Fox declining to run, the Republicans are quickly running out of viable candidate options.  Yellowstone County District Judge Russell Fagg (R), however, may be making moves to enter the race.  He is retiring from the bench and says he will announce his federal political plans later in the year.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) stated during the week that running for Governor "does not interest" him.  This should end speculation that he would eschew a third Senate term to run for the top state post.  Though the Senator did not outright declare for re-election, his statement indicated that he will soon do so.

House

Survey USA, which previously reported Democrat Jon Ossoff leading the Georgia special congressional election 51-44%, fielded a new poll (6/7-11; 700 GA-6 registered voters; 503 likely voters or those already casting an early ballot) that now finds Republican Karen Handel fighting back into a 47-47% tie with one week remaining.  The contest, now the most expensive congressional race in our nation's history with combined efforts that will top $40 million in spending, will be decided on June 20th.  It is clear this campaign has evolved into a voter turnout battle.  Whichever side does a better job getting their supporters to the polls will win the election.  So far, well over 102,000 people have already cast their ballots.  In the jungle primary, a huge 193,981 people voted, with just over 55,000 casting early ballots.  The run-off totals are likely to exceed these previous high numbers.

Before this week, veteran Congressman and former two-term South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R-Charleston) had two 2018 Republican primary opponents.  Now, he has none.  Both former fighter pilot and businessman Ted Fienning and defense analyst Tom Perez exited the race for their own individual reasons.  Mr. Fienning said that business and family commitments made him change his mind about running, and Mr. Perez received a job transfer that makes him re-locate overseas.  Neither was viewed as a particularly serious challenger.


June 7, 2017
OKC Mayor Looks to Governor in 2018 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

West Virginia Congressman David McKinley (R-Wheeling), who had been considering a US Senate bid, announced that he will seek re-election to his northern Mountain State US House seat.  Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) is already in the Senate race and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is expected to soon follow.  The eventual primary winner then faces Sen. Joe Manchin (D), who will be favored to win re-election.

House

2016 California Democratic congressional nominee Emilio Huerta, who under-performed against three-term Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/Bakersfield) in losing 43-57% when Hillary Clinton was carrying the Central CA district by 16 percentage points, announced he will run again in 2018.  Though this is tough political territory for Republicans, Rep. Valadao has won three consecutive elections in the high 50s and will again be favored.

State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez scored a 60-40% win in the California special election from the downtown Los Angeles anchored 34th District.  Mr. Gomez, who defeated former LA City Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn (D), enjoyed the backing of virtually the entire California Democratic establishment.  Voter turnout was just under 33,000 individuals for the June 6th special general election.  Two more House special elections will be held later in the month.  Voters in central South Carolina and north Georgia will go to the polls on June 20th to fill their respective vacancies.

Landmark Communications, for WSB-TV in Atlanta, ran a new poll (5/30-31; 500 GA-6 likely voters) that finds Ossoff leading Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel, 48-47%.  The poll, however, carries an error factor greater than four percentage points, so the race remains an effective tie with two weeks remaining in the special general election.  Early voting for the contest has already begun and more than 24,000 people visited the polling centers in the first three sanctioned days.

Speculation was tamped down this week that Minnesota businessman Stewart Mills (R), who twice came close to unseating Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), would enter the open 2018 gubernatorial campaign.  Mr. Mills stated that he is not running statewide, but still is considering a third challenge to Mr. Nolan.  The Congressman, himself, was considering a gubernatorial bid, but also announced that he will by-pass the statewide campaign to seek re-election to a seventh non-consecutive term.  Rep. Nolan served three terms from 1975-81, and then returned to the House in the 2012 election after a 32-year break in service.

Governor 

Though new Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has only been in office two weeks since succeeding former Governor and new US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad (R), she has already drawn seven Democratic challengers with a Republican primary contest now looming on the political horizon.  Former state Democratic Party chairman John Norris declared his gubernatorial candidacy in the past week, and Republican Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett says he will announce his own candidacy later in June.

Former NAACP president Ben Jealous (D) entered the Maryland Governor's race, and will challenge Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in the general election, should he advance that far.  Several Democrats are already in the race, and US Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) is expected to also become a candidate.  Gov. Hogan should be favored for re-election, but the Maryland voting history and political climate yields a difficult victory path for any Republican.

New Jersey held the first regular primary of the 2017-18 election cycle on 6/6, featuring nomination victories for Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno and Democratic former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy.  The two easily advanced to the November 7th general election where Mr. Murphy will be favored to convert the office Gov. Chris Christie has held for the Republicans during the past two terms. 

Oklahoma City four-term Mayor Mick Cornett will officially join the Republican gubernatorial field next week, attempting to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Mary Fallin.  Ironically, Cornett lost a congressional run-off election to Ms. Fallin back in 2006.  In the 2018 primary, he faces Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, state Auditor Gary Jones, and US Attorney Gary Richardson.  Democrats are contesting the race and have three candidates: former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, state House Minority Leader Scott Inman, and ex-state Sen. Connie Johnson.  The eventual Republican nominee will begin the general election campaign as an early favorite.


May 31, 2017
Alabama Senate Endorsements and Montana Review  
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

The political tangibles and intangibles continue to break appointed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange's (R) way as preparations begin for the August 15th special primary election.  Sen. Strange's main opponents appear as US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and ex-state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.  

House

Voters in Montana went to the polls in record numbers to fill the state's at-large congressional vacancy.  Former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) left his position to become US Interior Secretary.  Republican businessman and former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte defeated Democratic country folk singer Rob Quist by a 50-44% margin.  The voter turnout exceeded 377,000 voters, the largest all-time for a special election, but from a state that houses the most populous congressional district in the United States. 

Gianforte easily overcame the controversy involving his physical altercation with a news reporter, an incident that dominated the news coverage the day before the election.  But, such a late-evolving event would have little effect upon the outcome because at least 260,000 of the 377,000 votes had already been mailed into the county election offices.

Last week, California Democratic attorney Bryan Caforio, who held two-term Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale/Simi Valley) to a 53-47% re-election victory, announced he will seek a re-match in 2018.  This week, he released a Public Policy Polling survey (5/16-17; 596 CA-25 likely jungle primary voters), showing a Caforio lock on second place in the proposed jungle primary, which is the critical step toward advancing into the general election.  According to the PPP results, Rep. Knight would command 46% with Caforio taking 30% preference.  Non-profit organization executive Katie Hill (D) would score 9% with geologist Jess Phoenix (D) pulling 4 percent.  In a Knight-Caforio general election projection, the Republican incumbent would lead the Democratic challenger by a tight 47-43% early margin.

Candidate financial reports were disclosed for the coming California special election in the downtown Los Angeles anchored 34th District.  Thanks to another personal influx of money from the candidate, former LA City Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn (D) reported campaign receipts totaling $1.372 million including candidate loans of $490,000.  Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D), commonly viewed as the favorite in the June 6th election, has obtained $1.331 million sans any personal loans or contributions.

Candidate filing closed for the Utah special election and 15 Republicans plus four Democrats returned their paperwork.  Republicans have now scheduled a June 17th nominating convention.  If a candidate obtains 60% delegate support, he or she would move immediately into the primary to face any candidate who achieves ballot access by petition.  The latter individuals would have to obtain at least 7,000 valid registered voter signatures to qualify for the primary.  If no one receives 60%, then any candidate obtaining 40% or more advances, which mathematically limits the number to only two.  Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, who placed second here in November, did not file as a Republican but has until June 12th to register as an Independent candidate.  The primary election is August 15th with the special general to follow on November 7th.  Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) is resigning to take a yet-to-be-announced position in the private sector.

Governor 

Spokespeople for Independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker say the state's chief executive will announce his electoral plans after the special legislative budget session concludes in mid-June.  The Governor is expected to seek a second term, but mystery remains as to whether he will continue running as an Independent, will rejoin the Republicans, or even run under the Democratic label.  Since he has allied himself closer to the Democrats in the budget process, it is within the realm of possibility that he decides to seek their nomination.

Democrats received potentially bad news in their quest to convert what will be an open Kansas Governor's mansion.  Greg Orman, the 2014 Independent, and de facto Democratic 2014 US Senate candidate who held Sen. Pat Roberts (R) to a ten-point victory, says he may enter the upcoming Governor's race.  Mr. Orman became Sen. Roberts' main opponent three years ago because Democrats did not field a credible alternative.  That's not the case in the upcoming Governor's race as several prominent Democrats are stepping forward to run. 

A strong Independent candidacy appealing to left-of-center voters, such as Mr. Orman's, would be devastating to the Democratic nominee because he will drain liberal votes.  Such would create an easier path for the eventual Republican nominee.  Expect the Democrats to take whatever action they can to prevent this split ticket scenario.


May 24, 2017
SC 5 field set and Supreme Court Impacts Future Redistricting
by Jim Ellis 

House

In a run-off contest that proved every bit as close as the primary two weeks ago, South Carolina former state Rep. Ralph Norman clinched the special election Republican nomination with a 221 vote victory over state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope.  The now official post-recount final totals show a turnout of 35,425 voters, about 90% of the number who voted in the original primary. Mr. Norman advances to the special general election scheduled for June 20th where he will face former Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D).  The first special general election poll, from Victory Enterprises (5/17-18; 629 SC-5 likely special election voters), finds Norman leading Parnell, 53-36%.

Tomorrow, voters in Montana will go to the polls to fill the state's at-large congressional vacancy.  Former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) left his position to become US Interior Secretary.  Voters will choose between Republican businessman and former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte and Democratic country folk singer Rob Quist.  Republicans are favored to hold the seat but, as always, voter turnout will be the determining factor.

A new Survey USA poll in the Georgia special election (5/16-20; 700 GA-6 adults; winnowed to 549 early and likely special election voters) gives Democrat Jon Ossoff his largest lead of the campaign, a 51-44% spread over former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R).  A Democratic skew is detected in the polling sample, but Ossoff leading the race is a reasonable conclusion.  It is doubtful that his advantage, if it does exist, would be as strong as this poll suggests, however, because too many Democrats comprise the respondent sample.

In Nebraska's politically marginal 2nd Congressional District that encompasses the Omaha metropolitan region, non-profit executive Kara Eastman announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination.  Ms. Eastman, who runs the Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance organization, will likely face either former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha) or his wife in the party primary.  The couple has confirmed one of the two will run next year.  Mr. Ashford served one term in the House, losing his seat to current incumbent Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha). 

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy), who had already announced he will not seek re-election in 2018, says he will resign from the House effective June 30th.  His exit from Congress sets the stage for the first special federal election in this state since 1930.  Gov. Gary Herbert (R) acted quickly and has already scheduled the special election, including setting a candidate filing deadline (this Friday, May 26th) more than a month in advance of Mr. Chaffetz actually leaving office.  The special primary will occur on August 15th with the special general to follow on November 7th. 

Already six Republicans, including three state legislators, the son of Boston Celtics general manager and Brigham Young University basketball star Danny Ainge (Tanner Ainge), and three minor candidates, along with three minor Democratic candidates have announced for the special election.  A petition signature requirement of 7,000 valid registered voter signatures due on June 12th may significantly winnow the field, however.  Republicans are favored to hold the seat.

Governor 

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) being confirmed as US Ambassador to China led to the resigning of his state chief executive position, effective today.  Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) will automatically ascend to the Governor's office.  She is eligible to run for a full term in 2018.  Opposition will be intense, at least in the general election though several Republicans have not yet ruled out challenging the new Governor.  Mr. Branstad is the longest-serving Governor in American history, over 22 years through six non-consecutive terms.  Ms. Reynolds, then a state Senator, was elected Lt. Governor in 2010 as Mr. Branstad's running mate.


May 17, 2017
Norman Appears to Win SC-5 and Alabama Election Intentions 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Candidate filing closes today for the Alabama special Senate election.  At this writing, four prominent Republicans have announced they will enter the August 15th special primary election against appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R).  U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) entered the GOP race earlier in the week, joining former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, state Rep. Ed Henry, ex-state Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., and resigned Alabama Christian Coalition president Randy Brinson.  Former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones will likely claim the Democratic nomination and advance to the December 12th special general election.  If no Republican secures a majority in the August 15th vote, a run-off election will be held September 26th.

Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) formed a U.S. Senate exploratory committee.  If he runs, he will likely oppose U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) for the Republican nomination.  The Indiana seat could be the Republicans' best conversion opportunity.  Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) will stand for a second term.

St. Louis area Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) is rapidly moving toward formulating a U.S. Senate challenge to Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D).  After raising over $800,000 in the first quarter and holding almost $2.8 million in her campaign account (Sen. McCaskill has just barely over $3 million), it was quickly becoming evident the Congresswoman was preparing for more than another re-election run.  It is likely we will see an official U.S. Senate announcement from her in July.

Columbus area Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Franklin County) announced that he will not enter the U.S. Senate race to challenge two-term Ohio incumbent Sherrod Brown (D).  Mr. Tiberi was sending signals for a run with perhaps the strongest fundraising effort in the nation during the first quarter, a haul that netted him more than $6 million for his campaign account, counting leftover monies from previous races.  The Representative's decision likely allows state Treasurer and 2012 U.S. Senate nominee Josh Mandel (R) a clear shot at the Republican nomination, which will culminate in a probable re-match with Sen. Brown.  Five years ago, the two battled to a 51-45% Brown victory.

House

California attorney Bryan Caforio (D), who held Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale/ Simi Valley) to a 53-47% re-election victory, announced that he will seek a re-match next year.  Already running as Democrats are non-profit executive Katie Hill and geologist Jess Phoenix.  The top two vote getters in the June 2018 primary will advance to the general election.

New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) rebuked Democratic Party efforts to recruit her into another campaign for the U.S. House office that she once briefly held.  Ms. Hochul won a 2011 special election after the Republican incumbent resigned, but then lost to current Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence/Buffalo suburbs) a year later.  She is expected to be retained as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) running mate when the latter seeks a third term in office next year.

In a run-off contest that proved every bit as close as the primary two weeks ago, South Carolina former state Rep. Ralph Norman appears to have clinched the special election Republican nomination with a 203 vote victory over state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope.  The unofficial final totals show a turnout of 35,307 voters, about 90% of the number who voted in the original primary.  Assuming the margin holds if there are recounts ordered or absentee ballots still outstanding, Mr. Norman will face former Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D) in the special general election on June 20th.

Governor 

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan (R) said Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey's (R) ascension to the Governor's office would not deter him from running for the office in 2018.  This week, he supported that statement by filing documents to open a gubernatorial campaign committee.  He joins Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington in the Republican gubernatorial primary.  Gov. Ivey has yet to announce whether she will seek a full term.

Sally Yates (D) who, as Acting Attorney General in the first days of the Trump Administration, was being recruited to enter the open Georgia Governor's race next year.  This week she firmly stated that she will not become a candidate.

Public Policy Polling, surveying for the Virginia Education Association (5/9-10; 745 VA likely Democratic primary voters) finds Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam leading former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville), 45-35%.  The VEA is supporting Mr. Northam.  According to the data, Northam's strength with the African American community (+26%) and senior citizens (+23%) account for his double-digit lead. 

Other research firms see this race primary campaign as being much closer, but even this spread is an improvement for Perriello over the VEA's previous poll.  The Virginia primary is scheduled for June 13th.  The eventual Democratic nominee will likely face former Republican National Committee chairman and 2014 US Senate nominee Ed Gillespie.


May 10, 2017
Jenkins for WV Senate and Labrador for ID Governor 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), who many political observers believe would be Sen. Jeff Flake's (R) toughest challenger, seemed to take herself out of Senate race consideration during a Phoenix radio interview last week.  The Congresswoman said she is running for re-election but, according to her spokespeople, Ms. Sinema is simply saying such is her current status, which apparently doesn't necessarily close the door on her melding into statewide candidate mode. 

Rep. Sinema has been raising large amounts of money, and has almost $3 million cash-on-hand, way more than necessary for re-election in what is now her safe congressional district.  Much more will happen here, and this is a race to watch.

Two-term West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) announced via video that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin next year.  Among the attacks Jenkins launches is that Manchin has supported President Obama.  But the Congressman, too, backed Mr. Obama at one time.  Mr. Jenkins was a Democrat during the 18 years he served in the legislature.  Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is also expected to join the Senate race, so we can expect an active Republican primary and a tough general election in the Mountain State next year.

House

First quarter financial reports are now in the public domain for US House members, and some have been quite prolific on the fundraising trail.  The majority member obtaining the most campaign cash is Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Franklin County) with over $1.37 million raised.  Mr. Tiberi is considering entering the US Senate race, and his fundraising activity suggests that he is on course to do so.  House Ways & Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) was the second highest Republican at $922,000 raised, and potential Missouri US Senate candidate Ann Wagner's (R-St. Louis County) $804,000 receipts total was third. 

For the Democrats, Illinois freshman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Schaumburg) is the leading money raiser with $818,000 obtained.  New Jersey freshman Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) is second with $751,000 in receipts, followed closely by veteran Georgia Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) who brought in $736,000. 

In what promises to be a hotly contested primary and general election season next year in South Florida, three major Democrats and one Republican announced their open seat candidacies to succeed retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami).  State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, 2014 nominee Scott Fuhrman, and Miami Beach City Councilwoman Kristen Rosen Gonzalez line up for the Democrats.  Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is the lone Republican announced candidate.

Two new polls were released for the GA-6 special election and while the polling tandem arrived at similar results, their segmentation conclusions were quite different.  GBA Strategies (4/29-5/1; 400 GA-6 likely special election voters), conducting a survey for the House Majority PAC that is associated with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), finds Democrat Jon Ossoff leading Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel, 50-48%.  Landmark Communications, polling for WSB-TV in Atlanta (5/3-5; 611 GA-6 likely special election voters) finds Ms. Handel holding a 49-46% edge.  Yet, both pollsters actually find their trailing candidate leading among Independent voters, a rather unusual circumstance.  Heading toward the June 20th special general election, this contest remains in the toss-up category.

Next week, the South Carolina special election Republican run-off will be decided in the vacant 5th Congressional District.  The primary race's fourth place finisher, former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly endorsed resigned state Representative Ralph Norman.  The US Chamber of Commerce and neighboring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg) took to the airwaves to support state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope.  The two candidates fought to a virtual tie in the May 2nd Republican primary.  The May 16th run-off winner will face former Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D) in the special general election.

Governor 

Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) announced that he will enter the open Governor's race next year.  Mr. Labrador, who was born in Puerto Rico and first elected to the House in 2010, joins a Republican primary field that already includes Lt. Gov. Brad Little, former state Sen. Russ Fulcher, and real estate developer and physician Tommy Ahlquist.  The eventual Republican nominee will become a prohibitive favorite to capture the office at the end of 2018.  Three-term Gov. Butch Otter (R) is retiring.

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flushing/Flint), who was thought to be a sure gubernatorial candidate in 2018, instead will remain in the House.  Rep. Kildee announced this week that he will not seek the open Governor's office but will run for a fourth term in Congress.  Mr. Kildee was viewed as a strong general election candidate, so his decision not to run statewide is perceived as good news for Republicans.

The huge Ohio open gubernatorial field for both parties became even larger this week.  Officially joining the race are Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D).  Mr. Husted joins a GOP field that includes Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine, and US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth).  For the Democrats, ex-US Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley), state Senator and former Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich are all announced candidates.  The general election promises to be a highly competitive affair.  Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.


May 3, 2017
Senate Field Builds in Alabama and GA 6 Poll Shows a Tie  
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Candidates continue to come forward in the Alabama special US Senate election and, as predicted, appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) will face a large Republican primary field in the August 15th intra-party contest. 

As reported last week, state Rep. Ed Henry, former state Rep. Perry Hooper Jr., Alabama Christian Coalition president Randy Brinson, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore all have announced their candidacies.  While US Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) and Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) will not run statewide, northern Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) may soon enter the race.  The filing deadline is May 17th.  If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a September 26th run-off election will occur.  The special general is scheduled for December 12th.

We now see our first poll in what could be an impending GOP Senate primary in Missouri.  Kansas City-based pollster Remington Research (4/28-29; 915 likely MO Republican primary voters; via Interactive Voice Response system), finds Attorney General Josh Hawley leading Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) by a 30-14% split, with two others in single digits.  Mr. Hawley has said he intends to fulfill the duties of the position to which he was just elected in November, thus he is unlikely to run for the Senate.  Rep. Wagner is a probable candidate, however.  The eventual Republican nominee faces vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill (D).

San Antonio Rep. Joaquin Castro (D), who said he would take several more weeks to decide if he would challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R), now says he will not.  In an email to supporters, Rep. Castro indicated he intends to seek a fourth term in the House.  This more than likely gives Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) a clear path to the Democratic nomination.  The Congressman announced last month that he would challenge Sen. Cruz.  

House

Veteran Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami), the first Cuban American to serve in the US House when originally elected in a 1989 special election and now dean of the Sunshine State congressional delegation, announced that she will retire at the end of this Congress.  The South Florida district is the country's strongest Hillary Clinton CD (19 point spread) that also elected a Republican to the House.  Still, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen scored a ten-point win last November even with President Trump drawing less than 40% of the vote.  As an open seat, this is clearly a top Democratic conversion target.

The first post-primary special election poll for the expensive GA-6 contest was conducted and just released.  Democratic pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research (4/23-26; 590 GA-6 likely special election voters) surveyed the special general between first place finisher Jon Ossoff (D) and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R).  Though Ossoff claimed 48% in the jungle primary against 17 other candidates, falling just short of outright victory, this new survey research finds him in a virtual tie with Handel, the leading Republican who took only 20% in the jungle primary.  According to the data, Ossoff clings to a 48-47% lead, again underscoring that party turnout will be the determining factor in this election.  The special general is scheduled for June 20th.

In South Carolina's 5th Congressional District, voters went to the polls this week to begin their special election nomination process.  As expected, more than twice as many people voted in the Republican primary than Democratic; the GOP will feature a special run-off election in two weeks; while Democrats nominated a candidate outright. 

Consistent with predictions, former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman (R) and state House President Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R) advanced to a run-off on May 16th, with the two virtually tied.  Mr. Pope placed first by just 112 votes over Mr. Norman, and carried their joint home of York County, the district's largest population entity, by just 137 votes.  Former Wall Street executive and congressional aide Archie Parnell, also as forecast, easily claimed the Democratic nomination outright, taking 71% in his primary.  The special general election will be June 20th.  

Virginia Democrats appear in disarray over who will challenge Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) next year.  After party leaders recruited state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D) into the race, who tried without success for the 2016 campaign, the state's First Lady, Dorothy McAuliffe, is indicating that she, too, is seriously considering entering the congressional campaign. 

Obviously caught by surprise, Reps. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) and Gerry Connolly (D-Fairfax) immediately announced their endorsements of Wexton.  The two figured prominently in her recruitment.  In addition to Wexton, three other Democrats had previously announced their candidacies.  The district will again be targeted because President Trump lost the seat by ten full percentage points, even with Comstock winning a highly expensive and hard fought re-election battle.

Governor 

Former one-term Florida Congresswoman Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) announced her gubernatorial campaign this week.  Ms. Graham, the daughter of former US Senator and Governor Bob Graham (D), was a victim of the mid-decade, court-ordered redistricting that drastically changed the north Florida congressional districts.  Rather than face certain defeat, the Congresswoman did not seek re-election but promised at the time of her retirement announcement to reappear as a participant in the 2018 open Governor's race.

Already in the Democratic primary are Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and real estate executive Chris King.  Agriculture Commissioner and former US Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Lakeland), who will soon announce his own gubernatorial candidacy, is the early favorite.

Television executive Jeff Apodaca (D), whose father, Jerry Apodaca, served as New Mexico's Governor in the mid to late 70s, announced he will enter the open gubernatorial race in the Land of Enchantment next year.  Already in the Democratic race is US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque).  The primaries in both parties promise to be spirited affairs.  Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.


 
 

 


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