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.


January 19, 2018
House Candidates Dropping Out and Senate Races Heating Up
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Arizona:As expected, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) announced her candidacy for the state's open Senate seat at the end of last week. Ms. McSally will now challenge former Sheriff of Maricopa County Joe Arpaio and ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward in the August 28th Republican primary. The winner will likely face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in the general election. Ms. Sinema is fast becoming the consensus Democratic candidate.

A new poll from the Arizona-based Data Orbital survey research firm (1/11-15; 500 AZ likely Republican primary voters) finds Rep. McSally leading Mr. Arpaio and Ms. Ward for the open Republican Senate primary. According to these latest numbers, Rep. McSally holds a 31-22-19% lead over Mr. Arpaio and Ms. Ward, respectively. The analysis suggests that McSally's strong base within her Tucson congressional district is largely responsible for her statewide advantage. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is retiring after one term.

Minnesota:While former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) never expressed outright interest in running in the new special election presumably against appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D), he never firmly closed the door on entering the race, either. Now, he has. This week, in a Fox News interview, Mr. Pawlenty said he will not become a Senate candidate, and that there are many other ways to continue his public service career. On the heels of Mr. Pawlenty firmly deciding not to run against Sen. Smith, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano/Minneapolis suburbs) then quickly followed suit. Yesterday, Mr. Emmer announced that he will seek re-election to a third term from his 6th District US House seat. For now, state Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater/St. Croix River Valley) is the only announced candidate. Former US Rep. and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is also considering the race.

Mississippi:Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D-Tupelo), a cousin of rock legend Elvis Presley, had been the national Democrats' top choice to oppose Sen. Roger Wicker (R) this year. But, they will now have to look elsewhere. Yesterday, Mr. Presley announced that he will not become a Senate candidate, at least in the regular cycle. Rumors have been rampant that health issues may force Sen. Thad Cochran (R) to resign and, if so, an appointment would be made followed by a special election to be held concurrently with the regular cycle. Mr. Presley pointedly did not rule out entering a special election, if and when such a political apparatus becomes necessary.

On the Republican side, still no word as to whether state Sen. Chris McDaniel will challenge Mr. Wicker in the GOP primary. As time progresses without indication of movement, the chances are much less that Mr. McDaniel will enter the race. In 2014, you will remember that Sen. Cochran came within a half-percentage point of losing the Republican nomination to Sen. McDaniel. The candidate filing deadline is March 1st for the June 5th primary.

Missouri:Last week, Remington Research released a survey giving Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) a 49-45% lead over Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), the second time this polling firm reported such a finding. Public Policy Polling, then surveying for the liberal Majority Institute (1/8-9; 965 MO registered voters), puts McCaskill back in the lead, but with only the slightest of margins, 45-44%. This latter sampling universe appears to contain a Democratic skew, however. In a state that has lurched to the right since the turn of the century, the PPP sample actually gave the Democrats a 37-34% plurality. Together, the two polls suggest that the Senate race is clearly within the margin of polling error and should be considered a toss-up, even at this early stage of the election cycle.

Tennessee:The first public polling for the open Volunteer State Republican Senate nomination (Triton Polling & Research; 12/12-18; 1,028 TN likely Republican primary voters) released back in December staked Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) to a huge 58-11% advantage over former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County). Now, WPA Intelligence, polling for the Club for Growth, released the results of their latest survey (1/14-15; 502 TN likely Republican primary voters) and found Rep. Blackburn's lead to be even greater: 66-13%. In fact, even when tested against two-term retiring incumbent Sen. Bob Corker (R), the Congresswoman would deny him re-nomination in a hypothetical primary race, 63-25%. Her favorability image within this polling sample is a whopping 64:12% positive to negative.

Wyoming:Though we have heard little follow-up about potential primary challenges to Sen. John Barrasso (R), Blackwater security company founder Erik Prince is again on record saying he is still considering whether to enter the race, and promises a decision in February. Nothing more has been heard from mutual fund founder and major GOP donor Foster Friess, who also made statements about possibly opposing the Senator. Both men could easily finance their own campaigns. The candidate filing deadline is not until June 1st for the August 21st state primary. But, like in Mississippi, the more time that passes without challengers coming forward continues to favor the sitting incumbent.

House

IL-3:Marketing consultant Marie Newman is challenging veteran Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/Chicago suburbs) and consolidating support on the left. In addition to attracting several left-of-center groups' support, Newman has now earned endorsements from two sitting members of the Illinois congressional delegation. In a bit of a surprise, Chicago Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky both endorsed Ms. Newman against their area colleague, though the former is not seeking re-election. The moves signal that this Democratic primary challenge will likely become a serious electoral contest. The Illinois primary is March 20th.

IL-17:Despite already raising more than $500,000 as a challenger opposing three-term western Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), businessman Mark Kleine (R) has decided to end his congressional campaign. He made comments suggesting that he could not raise the type of money it would take to win the race, even though he began in strong fashion. At best, the race would have been a long shot.

Though Mr. Kleine was demonstrating some strength as a candidate, the party leaders have no chance of recruiting a strong replacement since the filing deadline has already passed. Illinois has the second-earliest primary in the country (March 20). For her part, Rep. Bustos had already raised well over $1.5 million in this currently election cycle, and held over $2.3 million in her campaign account at the end of September.

NV-4:Reports coming from Nevada indicate that Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony (R) is ending his campaign for the open 4th Congressional District seat (freshman Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas)) because of heart problems. Now that Mr. Kihuen is out of the race, former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite), despite suffering his own heart attack during his one term in the House, has re-entered the race. Rep. Kihuen unseated Mr. Hardy in 2016, but came under fire for sexual harassment and will not seek re-election. The 4th CD is a marginal political seat, originally created in the 2011 reapportionment, which leans toward the Democrats but has also proven to vote Republican.

OH-12:Now that Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) has officially left the House and the replacement primary election is scheduled concurrently with the state's regular primary on May 8th, more individuals are making political moves. This week, Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan became the sixth Republican to declare her candidacy, while Democratic former state Rep. Jay Goyal said he will not run despite being encouraged to do so by many Democratic Party leadership figures.

So far, six Republicans and seven Democrats have entered the special election campaign. The candidate filing deadline is February 7th. The leading Republicans are state Sens. Kevin Bacon (R-Columbus) and Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), along with Delaware County prosecutor Carol O'Brien. For the Dems, former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott and ex-Ashley Mayor Doug Wilson appear to top the field. The special general is August 7th. Republicans are favored to hold the seat.

VA-6:Through Virginia's unique candidate nominating rules, each congressional district party committee can decide upon the vehicle and date to choose their candidates. The open 6th District (Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke) retiring) will go to a Republican convention on May 19th. Candidate filing closed yesterday, and eight individuals filed as congressional contenders. Three appear to be the key players: state Del. Ben Cline (R-Lexington), RNC National Committeewoman and former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, and Rockingham-Harrisonburg Clerk of Court Chaz Haywood. 

The 6th District Republican Committee is organizing a bit differently for this convention. Instead of the usual process where the delegates vote until a candidate has majority support, these delegates will simply vote one time. This means the contender with mere plurality support will be nominated. At least one of the candidates, Delegate Cline, is objecting to the new procedure but there is little he can do to influence changes.

Governor

Connecticut:Liberal activist Ned Lamont, who upset Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) in the 2006 Democratic primary but fell to him in the general when the Senator attained ballot access as an Independent, announced that he will become the eighth Democrat to compete in this year's open Governor's race. Mr. Lamont lost the 2010 gubernatorial primary to Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, the man who would go onto win the general election, garnering only 42% of the vote. The perennial candidate, a former Greenwich Selectman, is from the Sanders-Warren wing of the Democratic Party, and actually stands a good chance of topping a crowded primary field where no other candidate has significant statewide name identification.


January 12, 2018
Sen. Hatch and Rep. Shuster to Retire and Va. Election Tie Decided in A Drawing of Names
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Arizona:  Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R), who was defeated for re-election in 2016, announced he is entering the open Senate Republican primary.  If he were to be elected at 85 years of age, he would become the oldest freshman Senator in American history.  Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has scheduled a series of appearances around the state for today that Arizona politicos report will become her Senate announcement tour.  Rep. McSally and Sheriff Arpaio will join former state Sen. Kelli Ward in the Republican primary.  The winner will likely face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in the general election.  Ms. Sinema is becoming the consensus Democratic candidate.  Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is not seeking a second term.  The Arizona primary is not until August 28th, with candidate filing closing May 30th.

The OH Predictive Insights polling firm conducted a flash interactive voice response poll for Arizona ABC affiliate Channel 15.  The survey (1/9; 504 AZ likely Republican primary voters) finds Rep. McSally moving into first place with 31% followed closely by Sheriff Arpaio who captures 29%.  Former state Sen. Kelli Ward drops to 25% support.

Missouri:  Remington Research again tested the tight Missouri Senate race with their latest survey (1/3-4; 1,122 MO likely voters), and once more found the challenger leading Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.   Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) continues to maintain a small advantage against the sitting two-term incumbent.  On this ballot test, Mr. Hawley holds a 49-45% edge over Ms. McCaskill.  The Missouri race has clearly moved into position as the Republicans' best national conversion opportunity.

Ohio:  State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who appeared to have the inside track toward facing Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in what would be a re-match of their 2012 campaign (Brown: 51-45%), has reversed course.  Mr. Mandel announced that he will not be filing as a Senate candidate, saying his wife has been recently diagnosed with a "health situation."  Investment banker Michael Gibbons has been in the race and was expected to battle Mandel for the nomination.  He will remain a candidate.  Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) announced late this week that he is switching from the gubernatorial race to the Senate campaign with the hope of now challenging two-term incumbent Brown. 

House

CA-39:Veteran California Congressman Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton), who was first elected in 1992 after spending ten years in the California Senate, declared his intention to retire yesterday despite holding $3.5 million in his campaign account.  Up until now, it appeared Mr. Royce was preparing for what was promising to be a highly competitive campaign in a district that is moving leftward and undergoing drastic demographic changes. 

Rep. Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is the seventh committee chairman to announce his retirement.  Five of the seven are ending their allotted tenure on their respective policy panels.  Unlike most of the Republican open seats, this southern California district will provide the Democrats with a prime conversion opportunity.  Hillary Clinton carried the seat by a 51-43% spread.  Already six Democrats had announced their candidacies, and others are now expected to jump into the race now that the seat is open.  On the Republican side, Rep. Royce announced that he will be supporting former Assemblyman Young Kim as his replacement.  Earlier, Ms. Kim was a member of the Congressman's staff.  Former state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), Orange County Supervisor and former Fullerton Mayor Shawn Nelson, and La Mirada City Councilman Andrew Sarega also declared their candidacies.

CA-49: California Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) announced this week that he will not run for a tenth term later this year.  Mr. Issa becomes the 48th House member who will not return to the House for the succeeding Congress, although he would apparently consider running in adjacent District 50 should embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) be forced to resign.  Rep. Issa scored the closest re-election of any incumbent in 2016, winning the race with only a 50.3% margin.  Several Democrats have been running for months, including retired Marine Corps Col. Doug Applegate, the man who came close to upsetting Mr. Issa in the last election. 

We can continue to expect a highly competitive 2018 campaign in a San Diego/Orange County coastal district that typically votes Republican but switched to Hillary Clinton in the presidential race and came close to sending a Democrat to the House.  In addition to the three-person Democratic field that has already formed, Republican Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey, a former Orange County state legislator, and state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) became Republican candidates.  Rep. Issa then quickly endorsed Ms. Harkey as his successor.

IL-4:  When Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced his retirement earlier in the year, he said it was only because Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia had agreed to run to succeed him.  With the blessing of the local Democratic machine, Commissioner Garcia obviously became the man to beat, but the early endorsements didn't stop Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa from joining the Democratic primary battle.  Yet, the Alderman's campaign proved short-lived.  Late this week, he dropped his congressional effort, thus making Mr. Garcia's nomination, and therefore election, a virtual certainty.  In fact, as part of his announcement, Mr. Ramirez-Rosa even endorsed Commissioner Garcia.  Four other Democrats remain in the race, including two other Chicago Aldermen, but Mr. Ramirez-Rosa appeared to be the most serious challenger. 

North Carolina:  A Tar Heel State federal judge again ruled the North Carolina congressional lines unconstitutional, though whether the map will again be re-drawn is unclear.  Should the US Supreme Court uphold the Wisconsin map in the political gerrymandering case that the Justices are currently reviewing, this North Carolina ruling will become moot. 

OH-12:  With Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) announcing that he will leave the House on January 15th, Gov. John Kasich (R) has set the replacement election schedule.  According to the public timeline, the special primary election will run concurrently with the regular primary schedule.  This means a nomination election on May 8th.  The special general will then follow on August 7th, with the winner serving the balance of the current term. 

State Sens. Kevin Bacon (R-Blendon Township) and Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), along with Delaware County prosecutor Carol O'Brien, appear to be the leading Republican candidates.  Former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott and ex-Ashley Mayor Doug Wilson are the top Democrats.  Others still have a month to enter the race.  The eventual GOP nominee will be favored to hold what was designed to be a safely Republican seat.  President Trump scored a 53-42% win over Hillary Clinton here in 2016.

Governor

California:  Former Congressman Doug Ose (R-Sacramento), who served three terms in the House before departing in 2004 because he self-term-limited, announced that he will become a gubernatorial candidate.  He is the first credible Republican to enter the open statewide campaign.  Though the Governor's race looks to be a suicide run for any Republican in heavily Democratic California, his chances of coalescing the GOP vote to send him into the general election from the jungle primary may be quite good.  Having a Republican on the ballot for the general election, thus avoiding a double-Democratic November campaign should help generate GOP turnout for the down ballot races.  This could be a significant plus for the targeted seven Republican House incumbents.

Florida:  Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) had long been considered a likely gubernatorial candidate and has now officially joined the race.  An outside PAC has already raised enough to put $2 million in an account to help elect the three-term Congressman to statewide office.  But, he starts out considerably behind the top Republican fundraiser, Agriculture Commissioner and former Congressman Adam Putnam (R-Lakeland).  The latest Florida financial disclosure reports find Mr. Putnam holding more than $15 million in a connected PAC.  But, a new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce (1/2-5; 600 FL likely and newly registered voters; 235 Democratic primary voters; 259 Republican primary voters), only slots him five points behind Mr. Putnam, 23-18%.  For the Democrats, ex-US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) places first, but with only 14% voter preference.

Maryland:  Gonzales Research & Media Services, a Maryland-based survey research firm, yesterday released the results of their year-end Democratic gubernatorial primary poll (12/27-1/5; 501 MD likely Democratic primary voters) and found Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker jumping out to an early advantage.  According to the Gonzales data, Mr. Baker would capture 24% support, followed by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and ex-NAACP national president Ben Jealous with 14% apiece, while state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) tallies five percent.  Four minor candidates all recorded support factors of less than two percent.  The eventual Democratic nominee will face incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in the fall election.

Ohio:  Just after former Congressman and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich joined the Democratic gubernatorial primary former Attorney General Richard Cordray and ex-US Rep. Betty Sutton have agreed to form a Democratic ticket.  Ms. Sutton will now drop her gubernatorial campaign and file for Lt. Governor.  The move prompted Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley to schedule an announcement for today in which she will also drop out of the Governor's race and endorse the new Cordray-Sutton ticket.  State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Mahoning Valley), state Supreme Court judge Bill O'Neill, and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) remain in the race along with ex-Rep. Kucinich.

The Democrats' move is similar to one Republicans made in late November.  There, Secretary of State Jon Husted dropped his gubernatorial effort to run as Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine's running mate.  That move now isolates Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor as DeWine's only primary opponent, since Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) has bolted for the Senate race.

State Legislature

Virginia:  The Virginia House of Delegates' majority looks finally to be settled as the members were sworn into office this week.  After Republican Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News) won the lottery pick when he and Democrat Shelly Simonds ended in a tied result, his opponent decided to end the race by not asking for a further recount or filing further legal challenges.  Ms. Simonds did pledge to run again in the 2019 House of Delegates election.  This result, plus the Republicans receiving a favorable court ruling in another contested outcome, gives the GOP a 51-49 majority in the new House of Delegates and ends one of the closest political scenarios in American electoral history.


January 5, 2018
Sen. Hatch and Rep. Shuster to Retire and Va. Election Tie Decided in A Drawing of Names
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Michigan:  Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young (R), who launched his Senate challenge to incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) months ago, announced he is ending his campaign.  Unable to raise sufficient funds to compete in a large state, the former jurist will presumably retire from elective politics.  This likely leaves manufacturing business owner and retired Army Ranger John James and venture capital firm owner Sandy Pensler to battle for the party nomination.  The Michigan primary won't be held until August 7th.  Sen. Stabenow is favored to win a fourth term.

Minnesota:  Sen. Al Franken (D) officially left office on January 2nd, and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) was sworn in the next day as his replacement.  Sen. Smith has already announced that she will compete in the 2018 special election to fill the balance of the current term.  While former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is not yet closing the door on running for the Senate, US Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) is saying people are calling for him to run.  Mr. Emmer was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2010, losing to Democrat Mark Dayton by just under 9,000 votes statewide, or half a percentage point.  State Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary's Point/Washington County) also says she will enter the special election contest.  Sen. Housley is the wife of Phil Housley, the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey club.

North Dakota:  State Rep. Rich Becker (R), who competed in the 2016 state Republican Convention for the Governor's nomination, said yesterday that he will not become a US Senate candidate.  Mr. Becker had been openly considering running for the party nomination to oppose first-term North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).  At-large US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) still maintains he is contemplating a Senate bid, but the only person to actually come forward to declare his candidacy is state Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton). 

Texas:  We now see the first released US Senate poll since the New Year began, and it contains good news for the Lone Star State's first-term Republican Senator, Ted Cruz.  According to WPA Intelligence, polling for the Cruz Campaign (12/12-14; 600 TX likely voters), the Senator would have a 52-34% opening advantage over US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso).  The latter man appears to have become the consensus Democratic candidate; therefore, he should easily win the March 6th Democratic primary without a run-off.  Though Mr. O'Rourke is capable of running a strong campaign and will attract national liberal funding, Sen. Cruz begins this race as a heavy favorite to secure a second term.

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) finally ended speculation about his 2018 political plans and will not seek an eighth term during this campaign season, thus ending a Senate career that will span 42 years when this Congress adjourns.  On the heels of his retirement announcement, the Senator again made a public pronouncement that he favors Republican former presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to succeed him. 

Evan McMullin, the Independent presidential candidate who scored 21.5% of the vote in Utah and finished just six points behind Hillary Clinton for second place, was openly considering entering a Republican primary bid against Mr. Hatch.  With the Senator now officially retiring, Mr. McMullin was quoted late this week as saying he would also support former Gov. Romney, should the latter man decide to run for the Utah seat.  As has been the case for months, Mr. Romney remains silent about whether he would enter a new political contest.  If he declines to run, then expect Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Farmington/Salt Lake City) and possibly Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs), along with several others, to enter the statewide campaign.

House

AL-2:  Rich Hobson, campaign manager to failed US Senate candidate Roy Moore (R), yesterday announced that he will enter the field to challenge four-term Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in this year's June Republican primary.  Already in the race are state Rep. Barry Moore and Iraq War veteran Tommy Amason.  Though Rep. Roby only won re-election in the 2016 general election by a 49-40% count, it does not now appear that any of the three Republican challengers will be strong enough to deny her re-nomination.

AZ-7:  In an unusual twist, a Democratic congressional incumbent is drawing a primary challenge from his right.  State Sen. Catherine Miranda announced yesterday that she will challenge two-term Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) for his heavily Democratic urban Maricopa County CD.  Sen. Miranda even went so far as to cross party lines to endorse Republican Doug Ducey in the 2014 open seat battle that he would subsequently win.  Rep. Gallego is favored for re-nomination in a district that is 64% Hispanic, but it will be interesting to monitor how well a credible Blue Dog can perform in a secure Democratic CD. 

MS-3:  Five-term Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Pearl/Jackson) announced late this week that he will not stand for re-election, becoming the 30th current Republican not to run for another term.  This is in addition to 15 Democrats who have taken the same course.  Less than half of the exiting group, 18 in all so far, are running for another office, either Senator or Governor with one already announcing for the 2020 presidential contest.  The remainder are voluntarily retiring or have already resigned typically because of sexual harassment allegations. The 3rd District, which occupies most of central Mississippi, has a safely Republican voting history.  Therefore, the eventual party nominee will be a heavy favorite to hold the seat for the GOP. 

OH-12:  Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County), who declared last year that he would resign from Congress to accept a position as head of the Ohio Business Roundtable, stated yesterday that he will officially leave the House on January 15th.  Once the seat becomes vacant, Gov. John Kasich (R) will schedule the special election to replace Mr. Tiberi.  It is likely that the state's May 8th regular primary election will serve as either the special primary or special general election.  The GOP is expected to hold what has performed as a safely Republican district.

PA-9:  In November, veteran Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona) announced that he would seek re-election in 2018 even though his chairmanship of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is drawing to an end when the current Congress adjourns.  As 2018 begins, however, Mr. Shuster has suddenly reversed course and announced that he will not seek re-election after all.  Under its present configuration, the 9th District should remain safely Republican.  If the Democrats win their redistricting lawsuit, however, the district could drastically change in a re-draw, meaning this open seat could easily turn more Democratic

Governor

Virginia:  The Virginia House of Delegates' majority has come down to one single district that ended in a tied vote.  Therefore, literally one vote statewide is determining which party will control the chamber in the next legislative session.  After the state three-judge panel ruled that a particular contested ballot must be counted for Republican Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News), the 94th District House of Delegates electoral outcome officially became a tie.  Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds asked for reconsideration, but the court again ruled the vote must be counted.  This led to the drawing of lots to determine who would officially win the election.  On Wednesday, the process was completed and Delegate Yancey won the draw.  Ms. Simonds apparently has the right to ask for yet another recount, and she already indicated that she will pursue such a course of action.  So, this post-election saga will apparently continue for some time, but for now the official ruling declares that Mr. Yancey is the winner.


December 22, 2017
Another Mr. Pence to Go to Washington and Kay Ivey Locking Up the AL GOP Governor Nomination
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Minnesota:Sen. Al Franken (D) has announced that he will leave office on January 2nd, after previously saying "sometime in January." Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), Gov. Mark Dayton's (D) pick to succeed Mr. Franken, will be sworn into the Senate on January 3rd. She will serve until the 2018 special election is held (concurrently with the regular election cycle), and has already announced her candidacy to fill the balance of the current term.

State Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary's Point/Washington County) also says she will enter the special election contest. Sen. Housley's husband is Phil Housley, the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey club. Sen. Housley was first elected to the legislature in 2012, won a second term last year, is a realtor, and hosts her own radio program. Other Republicans who might be interested include former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and US Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) and Tom Emmer (R-Delano), along with state House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).

Tennessee:Triton Research conducted a survey of Tennessee voters (12/12-18; 1,028 likely primary voters via interactive voice response systems), and finds Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) jumping out to a massive lead over former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County). According to the data, the eight-term west Tennessee Congresswoman would lead Mr. Fincher by a whopping 58-11% among the self-identified Republican primary voters. Much of her margin could be attributable to Ms. Blackburn's strong name identification and positive image. Her favorability ratio is 62:14% positive to negative with an 86% recognition factor, as compared to Mr. Fincher's 16:8%, meaning only 24% of the statewide Republican electorate say they are familiar with him. The eventual Republican nominee will almost assuredly face former two-term Gov. Phil Bredesen.

House

HI-1:As expected, Attorney General Doug Chin (D) officially became a congressional candidate in the open 1st District earlier this week. Mr. Chin made national headlines when he sued the Trump Administration over the travel ban Executive Order that the President issued early in his tenure. Mr. Chin has never run for elective office, however, as the AG is an appointed position in Hawaii. He previously served as Honolulu's City Manager, and as a prosecuting attorney. Currently in the Democratic primary are state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D-Moanalua), state Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-Kihei), and Honolulu City Councilman Ernie Martin. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) is leaving the seat to challenge Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary.

IN-6:Greg Pence (R), older brother of Vice President Mike Pence, just saw his bid to win the seat his sibling previously represented grow stronger. State Sen. Mike Crider (R-Jackson Township) has withdrawn from the congressional contest meaning that no elected official is currently challenging Mr. Pence in the Republican primary. Candidate filing closes February 9th for the May 8th state primary. At this point, it appears Mr. Pence is becoming the prohibitive favorite to succeed Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie). The Congressman is running for the Senate and has endorsed the Vice President's brother in the open congressional race that he leaves behind.

MA-3:The Massachusetts candidate filing deadline is still over six months away, but already 13 Democrats have announced for the party nomination to run in the open 3rd District. The field includes businessman Keith St. John, who is the latest to declare his candidacy. In August, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) announced that she would not seek a seventh term, which set the political machinations into motion. The field includes Daniel Koh, the former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, state Sen. Barbara L'Italien (D-Andover), state Rep. Juana Matias (D-Lawrence), ex-Ambassador Rufus Gifford, and nine businessmen, local officials, and activists. Democrats are heavily favored to hold the seat, but the September 18th primary will be a free-for-all.

MA-7:Earlier in the year, Massachusetts Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville/Cambridge) drew a Democratic primary challenge from Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazen, but that threat ended when the latter man hopped into the open 3rd District race. Now, Rep. Capuano may face a new primary opponent. According to a Politico publication story, Boston City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley, who is elected citywide as one of four at-large members, is seriously considering challenging Mr. Capuano next year. The Massachusetts candidate filing deadline isn't until June 5th for the late September 18th state primary, so plenty of time remains for many political moves to occur.

MN-7:State. Rep. Tim Miller (R-Prinsburg), who had been forecast as a legitimate challenger to veteran Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes), withdrew from the congressional campaign this week citing early fundraising difficulties. He will instead seek re-election to the state House. The move leaves 2016 challenger David Hughes and businessman Matt Prosch as announced Republican candidates. Mr. Hughes held Rep. Peterson to a 52-47% victory, but spent just under $20,000 in doing so.

NV-4:Nevada Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) is one of several members succumbing to pressure from multiple sexual harassment accusations against him and announced that he will not seek a second term next year. Mr. Kihuen had previously said he would not resign when one woman came forward to levy her allegations. Now that at least two more have done so, he has decided to end his current congressional tenure after this legislative session adjourns. The 4th District occupies northern Clark County and six other central rural Nevada counties. The seat leans Democratic, but Republicans have proven successful in the region, as well.

NJ-11:New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, figures to be a Democratic conversion target next year and now his general election opponent may be identified. Last week, Passaic County Freeholder John Bartlett (D), despite already raising more than $230,000 for his budding congressional campaign, withdrew from the federal race and instead will seek re-election to his local position. Former federal prosecutor Mikie Sherrill, who has already raised just about three-quarters of $1 million and had just under $500,000 in her campaign account at the September 30th financial disclosure deadline, has now attracted the official endorsement of all four Democratic county party organizations in New Jersey's 11th CD. This guarantees Ms. Sherrill the first ballot position throughout the district for the party primary election, which is a proven major advantage in this state. Remaining in the Democratic primary are businesswoman Tamara Harris, attorney Mitchell Colbert, and college professor Mark Washburne.

PA-7:Pennsylvania Democratic state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-King of Prussia) now finds himself hit with sexual harassment allegations from several women, which is affecting his congressional campaign. As a result of the controversy, Sen. Leach announced he is "taking a step back" from his federal challenge to four-term Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford). Mr. Leach was viewed as the Democrats' strongest congressional challenger, but the chances of him continuing the race are slim. In fact, even his days in the legislature may be numbered. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has already publicly called upon him to immediately resign from the state Senate. Four Democrats remain in the race against Rep. Meehan, but none appears particularly strong at this point in time.

TN-7:Just a month after songwriter Lee Thomas Miller (R) announced for Rep. Marsha Blackburn's (R-Brentwood) open Nashville suburban congressional seat, he ended his fledgling campaign. This leaves state Senator and physician Mark Green (R-Clarksville) as the leading contender. Sen. Green was President Trump's choice for US Army Secretary, but was forced to withdraw when it appeared his nomination had confirmation trouble. When Rep. Blackburn decided to run for the Senate, Dr. Green then hopped into the open House race and is becoming the early prohibitive favorite.

TX-27:Late this week, the Texas Republican Party asked a court to intervene about whether Rep. Blake Farenthold's (R-Corpus Christi) name should appear on the ballot since he has withdrawn from further 2018 political competition. The Texas Secretary of State indicated the name remains in place because Farenthold filed for re-election. The court agreed with the Republican argument that the entire filing process had not been completed; hence, Mr. Farenthold's name will be removed from the 2018 ballot. Democrats immediately initiated a lawsuit against the judge's ruling, but later in the day backed away from taking any further legal action. The state apparatus also said the candidate filing deadline will not be re-opened even though the incumbent did not seek re-election. Normally, such deadlines are extended one week once the current office holder officially decides not to run. Because six candidates filed before the deadline, the authorities believe a filing deadline extension is unwarranted.

Governor

Alabama:In a move that strengthens new Gov. Kay Ivey's (R) position, state Agriculture & Industries Commissioner John McMillan (R), who had entered the Republican gubernatorial primary even before Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign, has changed his 2018 electoral plans. With Gov. Ivey running for a full term after ascending to the position from her Lt. Governor's post once Mr. Bentley departed, Commissioner McMillan announced that he is withdrawing. Instead, he will run for the open state Treasurer's position. The current Treasurer, Republican Young Boozer, is ineligible to seek a third term.

Maine:Five-term US Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven/Portland) had been publicly toying with the idea of entering the open Maine Governor's race next year, and promised a decision before the end of this year. In keeping true to her word, Rep. Pingree announced this week that she will focus on her career in Congress and seek a sixth term from her 1st Congressional District.

The Democratic gubernatorial field already numbers 11 candidates, including Attorney General Janet Mills, state Sen. Mark Dion (D-Westbrook), former state House Speaker Mark Eves, two former state legislators, and a combination of business people, educators, and political activists. Five Republicans, including state Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Liberty), Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon), and state House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport), are in the GOP primary. Gov. Paul LePage (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

South Carolina:Mason-Dixon Polling & Research conducted a survey of the South Carolina GOP gubernatorial primary where new Governor Henry McMaster is gearing up for a challenge from three fellow Republicans. According to the M-D data (12/6-10; 625 SC registered voters; 400 Republican regular primary voters), Gov. McMaster would lead former state cabinet secretary Catherine Templeton, 51-21%, while Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant garners only 8% support, and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill secures just 1% backing. The South Carolina primary is June 12th, with a June 26th run-off if no candidate secures a majority vote.


December 15, 2017
Special Elections set in Arizona and Michigan and Alabama Senate Race Turnout Examined 
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Alabama:  Yellowhammer State voters went to the polls this week and chose Democrat Doug Jones as the state's new Senator.  He defeated Republican former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore by a 49.9 - 48.4% margin, a spread of 20,715 votes.  The result defied most of the polling, though the final pre-election Survey Monkey study that forecasted a 49-47% Democratic split proved most accurate.  Judge Moore failed to solidify enough of the Republican vote, unable to attract normal GOP margins in key suburban counties around Alabama's most populous metropolitan areas.  In comparing this race to last year's presidential results, Moore could only attract 49.3% of President Trump's total while Jones garnered 92.0% of Hillary Clinton's Alabama total vote.  Turnout was very high, exceeding 1.34 million voters.  To put this special election vote into context, the last statewide vote for Governor (2014) drew 1.18 million participants.  The 2016 general election recorded over 2.123 million votes. 

Mr. Jones will serve through 2020, and is eligible to run for a full six-year term at that time.  The Senate partisan division now drops to 51R-49D.   The outcome here serves as a gateway to the 2018 election and gives the Democrats a path to obtaining the Senate majority, something that didn't exist before Alabamians voted.

Minnesota: Gov. Mark Dayton (D) this week announced that Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) will replace resigning Sen. Al Franken (D) when the latter man leaves the Senate sometime in January.  When Ms. Smith was first mentioned as the likely appointment, it appeared that she would serve as a caretaker but her acceptance statement quickly refuted this supposition.  Not only did Ms. Smith enthusiastically accept the US Senate appointment, she simultaneously declared herself a candidate for the 2018 special election.  

A day after accepting Gov. Dayton's appointment, the five individuals comprising the Minnesota Democratic congressional delegation all endorsed Ms. Smith's political efforts.  Since Minnesota is an unofficial convention state, and few candidates ever challenge the state party nominating results through a primary, the entire partisan congressional delegation already being on board to support the new Senator goes a long way to her easily securing the Democratic nomination in next April's state convention.

Among Republicans who might be interested in entering the 2018 special election, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is reportedly not completely ruling out such a move.  US Reps. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) and Tom Emmer (R-Delano), House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), and state Sens. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary's Point/Lake St. Croix Beach) and Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake/Andover) are the more prominent individuals being mentioned as possible special election candidates.  

House

AZ-2:  Republican Lea Marquez Peterson, the President and chief executive officer of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, says she will announce her congressional candidacy shortly in anticipation of incumbent Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) departing to run for the Senate.  Ms. Marquez Peterson says she has no intention of running against Rep. McSally, however, an office holder whom she supports.  In an open seat configuration, this seat will be highly competitive.  Eight Democrats, including former 1st District US Representative and 2016 US Senate nominee Ann Kirkpatrick, are in the race.  Former state Rep. Matt Heinz, the 2016 congressional nominee who fell to Rep. McSally, 43-57%, and ex-state Rep. Bruce Wheeler are also among the candidates vying for the party nomination.

AZ-8: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) just scheduled the special election to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria).  The special primary is scheduled for February 27th with the associated general on for April 24th.  Candidates are beginning to announce their intentions for the upcoming congressional race.  State Sen. Steve Montenegro (R-Avondale), though from a legislative district that only partially overlaps the congressional seat, is in the race.  He is a former staff member to Rep. Franks and claims to have Mr. Franks' endorsement.  State Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) is expected to soon announce her candidacy.  Former state Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump (R), who is not related to the late 13-term US Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ), is also an announced candidate.

MI-13:  Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has issued the special election calendar to fill resigned Rep. John Conyers' (D-Detroit) seat.  The 13th District special election will run concurrently with the regular election schedule, meaning the primary will be August 7th, with the special and regular general elections occurring on the same date, November 6, 2018.  Hence, the Governor's decision means the seat will be vacant for almost the entire year.  State Sens. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit), the former Congressman's nephew, and Coleman Young II (D-Detroit), son of former Mayor Coleman Young, are both announced candidates.  The latter man is fresh from being beat in the 2017 Detroit Mayor's race, losing to incumbent Mike Duggan, 72-27%. 

NY-22:  One of the most vulnerable Republican freshmen seeking re-election in 2018 is Upstate New York's Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford).  With a win percentage of just 44% in a three-way race, Rep. Tenney has already drawn a substantial opponent in state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica).  Yesterday, however, Ms. Tenney caught a break when Republican primary opponent Nicholas Wan, who hails from the Trump wing of the NY GOP, announced he is withdrawing from the race due to fundraising problems.  Having a unified Republican base is critical for Rep. Tenney to defend herself against what will prove to be a difficult Democratic challenge.

Texas:  In a state with a large delegation that normally sees little in the way of congressional competition, candidates have come out in droves to run next year.  With seven open seats (5R-2D) in the 36-member delegation, Monday's filing deadline produced a record number of 213 federal political contenders (100 major party candidates in the open seat category alone).  Of the 28 incumbents seeking re-election to the House, 26 have opposition.  Only two House members, Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) and Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), have no opponent in either the primary or general election.   Just eight incumbents are unopposed in their respective nomination election (5R-3D), meaning 21 have at least nominal primary opposition (15R-6D).  It remains to be seen how many of these many candidates develop strong campaigns, but it is a sure bet that 2018 will be a more active political year in the Lone Star State.

TX-27: Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) announced on Thursday that he will end his re-election campaign amid continuing sexual harassment claims.  Mr. Farenthold had previously filed for a fifth term, but will instead retire from the House at the end of the current term.  The 27th District that stretches from Corpus Christi all the way to the outskirts of Austin is safely Republican.  President Trump won the district in a 60-36% margin.  Four years earlier, Mitt Romney carried the seat, 60-38%.  Mr. Farenthold's retirement means that 42 seats are now either open or vacant.

WI-1: The Politico publication ran a story on Thursday that quoted unnamed aides and confidants as saying that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) would very likely leave his leadership position after the 2018 election, and speculated that he would also leave the House.  It is important to note that Speaker Ryan, himself, has made no such public claim.  Therefore, it is unclear at this time whether he will seek re-election to the House.  If he does not, Wisconsin's 1st District could become the site of a highly competitive open seat.  Though President Trump carried the district by ten percentage points, the 2012 Republican ticket, with Mr. Ryan as the Vice Presidential nominee, scored only a four-point victory margin.  Already, Democratic candidate Randy Bryce has amassed more than $1 million in his effort to oppose Speaker Ryan in his home district.


December 8, 2017
Congressional Resignations and Retirements Continue with Candidates Lining up for Open and Challenger Races
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Alabama:  The special election is fast approaching next Tuesday, and the prevailing opinion now seems to suggest that former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) will defeat ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D).  Two new surveys were released that produced split results.  The Washington Post/Schnar poll (11/27-30; 1,304 adults; 1,110 self-identified AL registered voters; 739 self-identified AL likely voters) reverses the trend of the previous six polls and finds Democratic candidate Doug Jones leading former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), 50-47%.  But a further examination of the respondent universe suggests that this survey is likely within the same realm as the others.  The Post/Schnar poll undercuts the number of Republicans in the sampling universe, thus likely providing Mr. Jones with a false margin. 

Conversely, the CBS News/YouGov data (11/28-12/1; 1,067 AL registered voters, 68% of whom say they will "definitely" vote in the special Senate election) finds Moore leading 49-43%, which is more in line with the six polls published before the Post/Schnar effort.  In this survey, the party division is 51R-36D, and better aligned with Alabama voting history.  This state does not register voters by political party, so determining partisan division is relegated to estimation.  Mr. Jones maintains a wide lead in fundraising and airing ads, and the resignation climate in Washington, DC could certainly adversely affect Judge Moore's candidacy.  Therefore, it is still possible the Democrat could score an upset here on Tuesday night.

Florida:  A new St. Leo University poll (11/19-24; 500 FL "residents") finds Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), an unannounced US Senate candidate, taking a substantial lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D), 42-32%.  The sample size is small, however, 500 respondents culled through a large number of online groups, and the methodology does not specifically indicate that all of the respondents are registered voters.  Several other September and October surveys, show a virtual tie.   This race is likely to become a top-three national campaign next year, and provides the Republicans with a serious conversion opportunity.

Minnesota:  Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced on Thursday from the Senate floor that he will resign "in the next several weeks."  Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is now tasked with appointing a successor.  Early speculation suggested that he would choose Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) and name her immediately upon Franken's resignation, but the Governor said yesterday that he would make the decision in the "next few days."  The seat will now come before the voters in 2018 to fill the remaining two years of the term Sen. Franken was elected to in 2014.  The special election winner will then be eligible to seek a full six-year term in 2020.  Early reports also suggested that if Ms. Smith is appointed, she would only serve as a caretaker, retiring after the electorate chooses a permanent replacement.  Both parties will effectively nominate their candidates in convention.  Already, Republicans are mentioning former Gov. Tim Pawlenty as a potential Senate candidate.

North Dakota:  State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt (R) stated publicly at the beginning of the week that she will not enter the US Senate race next year.  Currently, only state Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton) is a declared candidate lining up to oppose Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).  At-large US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) remains a potential contender, but says he will not make a decision until next year.  Former at-large Rep. Rick Berg (R) also refuses to close the door on running. 

Tennessee:  Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is clearly the Democrats' best possible open seat Senate candidate, surprised many in the political world late this week by releasing an announcement video.  The 74-year old former Governor, Nashville Mayor, and CEO originally said he would not enter the open seat campaign, but then agreed to reconsider when the national party leadership asked him to do so.  Apparently, the recruitment pitch was persuasive because Mr. Bredesen is now in the race.  Republicans look to be heading to a race featuring Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and ex-Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County).  Though the eventual Republican nominee should still begin the general election as the favorite, a Bredesen candidacy is a critical development toward increasing Democratic majority prospects in the 2018 cycle.  Where this seat was safely Republican, we will now see legitimate competition developing in this race.

House

AZ-8:  Out of nowhere, eight-term US Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria) announced on Thursday night that he, too, will resign from Congress due to "inappropriate behavior."  Arizona's 8th District is a safe Republican seat, located just north of Phoenix, including part of the city of Glendale, along with the Peoria, Sun City, West Sun City, and Surprise communities.  The astonishing nature of this latest development will cause many people from both parties to begin considering their own congressional prospects.  Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will schedule the special election upon the seat becoming vacant.

IL-3:  The Democratic primary race against Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/Chicago suburbs) looks to have the potential of becoming a serious contest.  Mr. Lipinski's nomination opponent is media consultant Marie Newman, a first-time candidate but one who has support from many liberal ideological groups particularly those on the social issues front.  Rep. Lipinski has a large resource advantage to begin the campaign.  Ms. Newman had already raised over $270,000 at the end of September, but had also spent well over half of her treasury.

KY-6:  Though his political intentions remained unclear for several months, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D) announced this week that he will challenge three-term Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington).  Three other Democrats are already in the primary campaign, including state Sen. Reggie Thomas (D-Lexington) and Iraq/Afghanistan War veteran Amy McGrath, a retired Marine Lt. Colonel.  Mr. Gray challenged Sen. Rand Paul (R) in the 2016 Senate race and lost, 43-57%.  Rep. Barr unseated then-Rep. Ben Chandler (D) in 2012, by a 51-47% margin.  He then averaged 60.5% in his two re-election bids. 

MI-9:  Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak/Wayne County), who will complete his 18th term in the House at the end of this congressional session, announced he will not seek re-election next year.  The 86-year old Congressman's retirement will create what should be a crowded Democratic primary in a seat that supported Hillary Clinton with a 51-44% vote spread.  In 2012, this district's electorate gave President Obama a more substantial 57-42% victory margin.  The Congressman's son, attorney Andy Levin, and Democratic state Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) both immediately announced their candidacies. 

MI-13: Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), the Dean of the US House elected in 1964, resigned his seat amid multiple sexual misconduct allegations and endorsed his son, John Conyers III, as his successor in a soon-to-be-called special election.  The younger Conyers, who was arrested earlier in the year for domestic violence but saw the charges dropped, said he has not fully decided to enter the contest.  Another Conyers relative, the Congressman's nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit), also declared his own candidacy for the 13th District.  Former two-term Rep. Hansen Clarke (D) is also a potential candidate.  The seat's electorate, which voted 79% for Hillary Clinton and supported President Obama in 2012 with an 85.2 vote percentage, will remain in Democratic hands regardless of whether a Conyers family member or another future candidate secures the special election party nomination.

NV-4: Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-NV), also under attack for inappropriate sexual behavior, says he won't voluntarily leave Congress.  Mr. Kihuen, a Las Vegas area freshman House member after defeating Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) in 2016, has seen Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) call for his resignation.  Should he remain and seek re-election, we can expect another competitive campaign in the Clark County/Central Nevada CD.  Now, former Rep. Hardy is said to be reconsidering his position not to seek a re-match next year.  Las Vegas City Councilman and former police captain Stavros Anthony (R) announced his congressional candidacy in July, and the latest developments certainly strengthen his challenge.

OH-12:  Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) will resign his House seat by January 31st in order to accept a position in the private sector.  Therefore, candidates are beginning to come forward for what will be a special election, possibly one concurrent with the regular cycle.  Gov. John Kasich (R) will schedule the election once Mr. Tiberi officially leaves office.  This week, former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott (D) declared his candidacy, joining four other Democrats who have done likewise.  Surprisingly, there is more action on the Democratic side in the early going, even though the 12th is a safe Republican district.  The only announced Republicans are Delaware County prosecutor Carol O'Brien and Iraq War veteran Brandon Grisez.  The Republican activity will increase once the vacancy date becomes more certain.  

Governor

Kansas:  Greg Orman was the Independent candidate who held Sen. Pat Roberts (R) to a 53-43% win in 2014.  Since the Democrats did not file a candidate in that race, Mr. Orman became the de facto opposition nominee.  Late this week, the ex-Senatorial candidate announced that he is forming a gubernatorial committee, and will again run as an Independent. 

Six democrats have declared their intention to run - candidate filing isn't until June 1st, so much can still happen irrespective about what people say they are doing in the early going - including former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, ex-state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty, and state House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita).  Seven significant Republicans have announced, including Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and several former state legislators.  Assuming Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is confirmed for the federal faith based position to which he has been nominated, Mr. Colyer will assume the Governorship, which will allow him to run as a quasi-incumbent. 

Ohio: Previously, former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray (D) was expected to announce his gubernatorial campaign last September, but postponed it until this week.  Mr. Cordray, a former Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer, officially joins the Democratic field that includes former US Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley, state Senator and former Minority Leader John Schiavoni (D-Mahoning County), and former state Rep. Connie Pillich.  The top Republican gubernatorial candidates are Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine, who is now running as a team with Secretary of State Jon Husted, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, and US Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth).  The seat is open because Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.   The general election is expected to begin as a toss-up contest.

Rhode Island:  This week, former state Rep. Joe Trillo, the 2016 Rhode Island state chairman for President Trump, announced that he will enter next year's Governor's race as an Independent.  Immediately, Republican Party officials called on Trillo, a former Republican National Committee member, to change his mind arguing that such a three-way race would allow Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) to be re-elected without attracting a majority vote since the conservative/ Republican constituency would be split.  Gov. Raimondo's job approval ratings are upside down and former gubernatorial nominee and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R) was thought to have a legitimate chance of carrying the heavily Democratic state.  Expect further Republican efforts to convince Trillo to drop his newly announced campaign.

Texas:  With the Texas candidate filing deadline approaching on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) now has two credible Democratic opponents.  Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White (D), both announced that they will run for Governor.  First-term incumbent Abbott will begin the race as a prohibitive favorite, but at least now will have some competition in the November general election.  


December 1, 2017
Ohio Governor's Race Shuffles Candidates and House Retirements Continue 
by Jim Ellis
 
Senate

Alabama:  Four new polls were released during the week, and all see former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) rebounding against Democratic ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.  The polls detect Moore leads between two and six percentage points.  WT&S Consulting (11/18-20; 11,641 AL registered voters) sees Moore moving back in front, 46-40%.  On the heels of this survey, the Strategy Research organization polling for the Raycom News Network (11/20-21; 3,000 AL likely voters) projects a 47-45% Moore edge. The Change Research firm released their third poll of the special Alabama Senate race (11/26-27; 1,868 AL self-identified registered voters) and it, too, confirms the latest survey findings.  The CR spread gives Judge Moore a 49-44% edge, with the partisan divisions returning to more usual Alabama voting pattern. 

The final survey in this series, from JMC Analytics & Polling, also confirms the latest results.  The new JMC data (11/27-28; 650 AL registered voters; 513 saying they will vote) finds Judge Moore topping Mr. Jones, 48-43%, with the four minor party and independent candidates receiving a combined 4 percent.   The remaining respondents report themselves as undecided.  The new results reverse the trends revealed in JMC's 11/9-11 survey that found Jones to be ahead, 48-44%.  The JMC numbers might even be better for Moore.  The sample includes 56% female respondents, about five percentage points higher than the actual voting universe.  Among women, Mr. Jones has a 50-44% lead.  Judge Moore is way ahead among men, 54-37%.  

Arizona:  Rep. Martha McSally's (R-Tucson) camp just released their internal Arizona Senate Republican primary poll that places the Congresswoman slightly ahead of former state Senator Kelli Ward.  According the WPA Intelligence survey (11/15-16; 500 AZ likely GOP primary voters), Rep. McSally holds a slight 38-36% edge over Ms. Ward.  The Congresswoman has yet to announce that she is entering the open US Senate race, but the fact that her political people are releasing statewide data provides further evidence for the supposition that she will soon become a candidate.  Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is retiring after one term.  The eventual Republican nominee will likely face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), who is quickly becoming the consensus Democratic candidate. 

At this point, former state Senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward is the only major Republican in the open seat field.  But, Rep. McSally is expected to soon officially join the statewide race.   With the Arizona primary not until August 28th and the candidate filing deadline still months away on May 30th, prospective candidates have plenty of time to make their final 2018 campaign decisions.

West Virginia:  Don Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy who was personally cited for safety violations in the deaths of 29 employees in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion.  Mr. Blankenship was sentenced to a year in prison, but that notwithstanding, he has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to join the US Senate Republican primary.  There, he will face Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington).  While his chances of winning the nomination are virtually nil, it is likely he is running to tell his side of the tragedy in an attempt to improve his moribund public image.

House

FL-27:  After Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) announced her retirement many individuals began to come forward and declare their congressional candidacies.  One was Republican Raquel Regalado, a former Miami-Dade County School Board member and daughter of city of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado (R).  After raising only $15,000 for her campaign through the September 30th financial reporting period, last among eight major candidates, Ms. Regalado has now decided to end her short-lived congressional campaign.  The August 28th Democratic primary is host to the real political action in this race.  The eventual Dem nominee will begin the general election as the favorite to snatch this seat away from the Republicans.

IL-3:  Democratic primary challenger Marie Newman is drawing strong support from liberal organizations in her bid to deny Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/Chicago suburbs) re-nomination in the March 20th Democratic primary.  The marketing consultant who is making her first run for public office announced official endorsements from NARAL Pro-Choice America, MoveOn.org, the Human Rights Campaign, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Democracy for America.   It is clear that her challenge strategy will center on developing a contrast on social issue positions, but it remains to be seen if such an approach will work against a seven-term incumbent whose father represented the district for the previous 22 years. 

IL-4: Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced that he will not seek re-election next year, just a week before the December 4th candidate filing deadline.  The Congressman also confirmed that he is endorsing Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D) as his successor, and saying he would not be retiring if Mr. Garcia had not agreed to run for Congress.   Chicago Aldermen Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (D), who is likely to attract national liberal organization support, and Joe Moreno (D) are coming forward to challenge Garcia in the March 20th Democratic primary.  The winner of that plurality contest will claim the seat in the November 2018 general election.

NJ-2:  Democratic Party leaders had long believed that state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) would match up well in a race against veteran Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor City), but the former wouldn't challenge the incumbent.  Now that Mr. LoBiondo has announced his retirement from Congress, Sen. Van Drew declared his candidacy for the seat this week, and will be a viable contender against whomever the Republicans choose to defend a seat the party has held since the beginning of 1995.  So far, no Republican has yet entered the race.  Sen. Van Drew was just re-elected to a fourth term in his current position, after serving three terms in the state Assembly.  NJ-2 now becomes a top Democratic conversion opportunity and will be rated as a Toss-up.

PA-1:  Embattled Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia), who is reportedly under a FBI investigation for involvement in allegedly arranging a pay-off to an opponent to exit the 2012 campaign, is drawing a Democratic primary challenge from Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad.  Mr. Brady is also chairman of the Philadelphia Democratic Party.  Ms. Ahmad resigned her city position to enter the congressional race.

PA-10:  Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport), who was forced to withdraw as President Trump's nominee as the nation's drug czar, now has a Republican primary opponent.  On Thursday, Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko (R) announced his challenge to the four-term Congressman, and immediately began the campaign with an attack on Mr. Marino.  Probably because he didn't expect to be on the ballot next year, Rep. Marino raised only $47,000+ before the September 30th financial disclosure deadline and reported just under $113,000 cash-on-hand.  Therefore, expect the Congressman's campaign to rapidly move into high gear.

PA-15:  State Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg), who had announced a primary challenge to Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) before the Congressman decided to retire, has ended his congressional effort.  Stung by several negative stories, not the least of which are the 500+ votes he has missed as a member of the legislature, Mr. Simmons could see his US House race victory path narrowing to the point of unlikelihood. 

Remaining in the race is state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Macungie), Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein who won a gold medal for cycling in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, and former CIA officer Scott Uehlinger.  The leading Democrats appear to be Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild.  Republicans have a slight edge here, and this district will yield a highly competitive campaign particularly if the Democrats' redistricting lawsuit prevails before the state Supreme Court early next year.

TX-6:  Veteran Texas Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis), a former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman announced late this week that he would not seek re-election next year.  Mr. Barton had already filed to run in 2018, but will now withdraw his paperwork prior to Texas' December 11th filing deadline.  We now expect to see several Republicans come forward to run in what will be the first open seat 6th District contest since 1984.  Mr. Barton will retire after serving 34 years in the House when the current congressional session ends.  The 6th is a safe Republican seat.  President Trump defeated Hillary Clinton here, 54-42%.  In 2012, Mitt Romney topped President Obama 58-41% in this north Texas congressional seat.

VA-6:  After Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke) announced he would retire at the end of this Congress, several GOP candidates immediately jumped into the open primary campaign in this safest of Virginia Republican districts.  In addition to state Delegate Ben Cline (R-Lexington) and Republican National Committeewoman Cynthia Dunbar, the Rockingham-Harrisonburg Clerk of Court, Chaz Haywood, has also joined the nomination contest.  The eventual Republican nominee will be a heavy favorite in the general election, but the party leaders have not yet decided whether the nomination contest will be decided by primary or district convention.

Governor

Florida:  John Morgan is a wealthy trial attorney who has developed major name identification throughout Florida through his extensive television advertising.  It has been presumed that he would enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary next year, but Mr. Morgan announced this week that he will not.  He further went onto say that if he does run for office in the future it would most likely be as an Independent and not a Democrat. 

The decision still leaves former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum as the three leading Democratic candidates.  The open Florida Governor's race will be one of the most important such contests in the country because of the position's significant redistricting power and since Florida hosts so many close election campaigns.  GOP Gov. Rick Scott is ineligible to seek a third term, but is expected to announce a Senate run after the first of next year.

Michigan: As long expected, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley finally announced that he will join the open Republican gubernatorial primary, setting up a battle against Attorney General and former US Congressman Bill Schuette.  The Michigan Governor's race is one of national importance since this is a critical redistricting state come 2021.  The Governor elected in 2018 will carry redistricting veto power.  Candidate filing does not end until April 24th for the August 7th primary, so both parties could see other potential candidates stepping forward.  Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Ohio:  Major developments occurred in the important Ohio Governor's race on Thursday.  The top two Republican candidates, in terms of polling and fundraising, joined forces in an announcement to unify the party ticket.  Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine will lead the new team with Secretary of State and former state House Speaker Jon Husted dropping his own gubernatorial run to join DeWine as his running mate for Lt. Governor.  Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) remain in the race.

For the Democrats, former Consumer Protection Financial Bureau director and ex-Ohio Attorney General and Treasurer Richard Cordray is expected to make a formal campaign announcement next week.  If Cordray is successful in topping the current Democratic field, which includes former US Rep. Betty Sutton, Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley, and others, and the DeWine-Husted ticket is nominated for the GOP, the 2018 Governor's race would be a rerun of the 2010 Attorney General's contest.  In that tight political battle, DeWine ousted then-incumbent Cordray, 47.5-46%. 

Texas:  Retiring state House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) announced last month that he would not seek re-election next year, and speculation immediately began about the moderate legislative leader challenging Gov. Greg Abbott either in the Republican primary or as an Independent in the general election.  Earlier this week, Mr. Straus quelled such talk saying that he may eventually consider running statewide but it would be highly unlikely he will do so before the 2022 election cycle.  At this point, Gov. Abbott faces little in the way of Democratic or Republican opposition.

 

November 24, 2017
Senate Candidates Continue to Make Decisions for 2018
by Jim Ellis
 

Senate

Alabama:  In what will likely be a closing theme in the Alabama race as more Republicans see their alternative as supporting embattled GOP nominee Roy Moore or losing another seat in the already tight US Senate chamber, President Trump issued his endorsement earlier in the week.  While saying that allegations alone from decades ago should not be allowed to destroy a person's life, the President said he believes that Judge Moore will still step aside if the claims are true.  Otherwise, Mr. Trump said, "we don't need a liberal person in there..." meaning Democrat Doug Jones being elected to the Senate.  

The Alabama special election to permanently replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R), now US Attorney General, is scheduled for December 12th.  The latest polling from Strategy Research for the Raycom News Network (released 11/21; 3,000 AL likely special election voters via automated device) gives Judge Moore a slight 47-45% lead over Mr. Jones, but the latter man will have a major resource advantage as we approach the closing days.

Michigan: Veteran Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), who had been contemplating entering the US Senate campaign for the past several months, announced his intentions during the week.  Instead of running statewide, Mr. Upton will seek a 17th term from his western Michigan US House district.  For six years, Rep. Upton was chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, serving his allotted time under the conference term limit rule.  Already, six Democrats have announced their candidacies against Mr. Upton, including Paul Clements, the Democratic nominee for the last two elections. 

On the heels of Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) announcing that he will not enter the US Senate race to challenge three-term incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D), another individual has come forward.  Michigan venture capitalist Sandy Pensler, founder of Pensler Capital, publicly declared that he will run for the Senate.  He joins a Republican primary field that includes Detroit area manufacturing company CEO and former Army Ranger John James and retired state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young.  Sen. Stabenow is favored for re-election.

New Jersey:  Former Sen. Bob Torricelli (D), who himself was forced to leave office in 2002 over a questionable campaign finance issue, had said he was interested in attempting a political comeback for his former position.  With Sen. Bob Menendez's (D) federal corruption proceedings now ending in a mistrial, Mr. Torricelli said over the weekend that he will not become a candidate next year.  Assuming the government does not pursue further legal proceedings against Mr. Menendez, the Senator will be in strong position to win a third term.

Utah: There has been a great deal of speculation surrounding whether 83-year old Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) will seek re-election next year.  While the Senator indicates that he is running, he continually leaves open the option to change his mind.  Boyd Matheson, a former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), was contemplating his own Senate candidacy should Mr. Hatch retire.  This week, Mr. Matheson said he won't run meaning either that Sen. Hatch has firmly decided to seek re-election, or the idea that former presidential nominee Mitt Romney would run in an open seat - a move Sen. Hatch says he would support - is gaining more credibility.  The Utah candidate filing deadline is March 15th, so much time remains for this situation to become clearer.


House

PA-15:  State Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg), who had announced a primary challenge to Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) before the Congressman decided to retire, has ended his congressional effort.  Stung by several negative stories, not the least of which are the 500+ votes he has missed as a member of the legislature, Mr. Simmons could see his US House race victory path narrowing to the point of unlikelihood. 

Remaining in the race is state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Macungie), Lehigh County Commissioner Marty Nothstein who won a gold medal for cycling in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, and former CIA officer Scott Uehlinger.  The leading Democrats appear to be Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Allentown City Solicitor Susan Wild.  Republicans have a slight edge here, and this district will yield a highly competitive campaign particularly if the Democrats' redistricting lawsuit prevails before the state Supreme Court early next year.

PA-18:  Earlier, a special Republican convention nominated state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/Jefferson Hills) as the party's special congressional nominee for the March 13th special election to replace resigned US Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh).  Late last weekend, Democrats followed suit in their special nominating convention.  The winner: former Assistant US Attorney Conor Lamb, whose father is the Pittsburgh city controller and his grandfather a former state Senate Democratic leader.  Mr. Lamb won the party nomination on the second ballot, defeating Westmoreland County Commissioner Gina Cerilli and ex-Obama Administration Veterans Affairs official Pam Iovino.  The other four candidates were eliminated in the first vote, each failing to secure 10% of the vote. 

In a southwestern Pennsylvania seat that President Trump carried by 20 percentage points, Mr. Saccone begins the special election campaign as a heavy favorite.  The winner will then turnaround and compete in the April regular election primary.

TX-21:  Former one-term US Rep. Quico Canseco (R-San Antonio) represented the swing 23rd District from 2011-2013.  He defeated former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-San Antonio) in 2010, but then lost to Democrat Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) two years later.  Rep. Gallego would then himself lose in 2014 to current incumbent Will Hurd (R-San Antonio).   About two months ago, Mr. Canseco announced that he would challenge Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) in the heavily Democratic 20th CD.  Now, the frequent Republican candidate has again changed course, but this time his move makes more political sense.  Over the weekend, the former Congressman announced he is switching his candidacy to the open 21st District, the seat from which veteran Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) is retiring.  Since the eventual Republican nominee will become the general election favorite here, a victory path for Mr. Canseco could exist.

Virginia:  Old Dominion Democratic Party members have decided how they will nominate 2018 candidates in two congressional districts.  In the hotly contested 10th District (Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-McLean), the eleven announced Democratic candidates will do battle in a regular primary election.  A convention, or "firehouse primary" had been discussed as nomination options, particularly by state Sen. Jennifer Wexton's (D-Loudoun County) supporters, but the voters will now decide as opposed to a small group of party insiders.  The "firehouse primary" is a hybrid option that allows the public to vote, but in only a few locations around the district.  This is another concept designed to limit voter participation and allow the party leaders to determine who advances to the general election.

On the other hand, there will be no primary in the more strongly Republican District 5, the southern Virginia seat that freshman Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Scottsville/Charlottesville) represents.  Therefore, the five announced Democratic candidates in this contest will now be forced to participate in a district-wide convention in order to win the party nomination.


Governor

Maine:  We haven't heard much lately from Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven/ Portland), but the Congresswoman did confirm this week that she is still considering entering next year's competitive open Governor's race.   Ten Democrats have already announced for the position, including Attorney General Janet Mills (an appointed position in Maine), former state House Speaker Mark Eves, state Sen. Mark Dion (D-Westbrook), and ex-state Sen. Jim Boyle.  Republicans are led by state Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Liberty), state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon), state House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Danforth/ Washington County), and former state Health & Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.  Gov. Paul LePage (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. 

 

November 17, 2017
Open Governor Races Draw Candidates and Polling from AZ to WV
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Alabama:  Six different pollsters went into the field immediately after the Roy Moore sexual impropriety scandal broke and they all now show a very tight special election campaign.  Of the six, three find Democratic nominee Doug Jones leading, two still see embattled Republican Moore with an advantage, and one projects a dead heat.  Interestingly, the one giving Mr. Jones his largest lead, a 51-39% spread, comes from the National Republican Senatorial Committee but they release no information about the pollster or methodology.  Fox News (11/13-15; 649 AL registered voters) gives Jones a 50-42% lead, but a Democratic skew appears to exist.  The party division is listed at 48R-42D, in a place where Democrats have failed to break 37% of the vote in any statewide election during the last two cycles, and Republican primary and run-off turnout is virtually three times greater than that of their Democratic counterparts.  Therefore, it is likely that Jones' edge is much closer to very low single digits.  The special election is December 12th.

Arizona: The local Arizona polling firm OH Predictive Insights conducted a new open Senate race survey (11/9; 600 AZ likely voters; automated responses) testing Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) against GOP Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) and then pairing the former with ex-state Senator and US Senate candidate Kelli Ward.  According to the results, with Rep. Sinema having a statewide name identification advantage over Ms. McSally largely due to the Democrat hailing from the dominant Phoenix media market, the spread between the two House members is only one point.  From this data, Ms. Sinema would lead 46-45%, meaning such a contest is a virtual tie.  Against ex-state Sen. Ward, Ms. Sinema's lead is just slightly larger, 46-43%.  The open Arizona race figures to be one of the focal point campaigns of the 2018 election cycle.

West Virginia:  A late October Fabrizio, Lee & Associates poll is now making its way into the public domain.  According to the survey (10/19-22; 400 WV likely Republican primary voters), Attorney General Patrick Morrisey would lead Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), 40-34%.  The poll was conducted for a Super PAC supporting Morrisey, called the "35th PAC."  The West Virginia GOP primary will be hotly contested from now until its culmination at the end of May.  The winner then faces Sen. Joe Manchin (D), and will begin that campaign in an underdog position.  Still, the general election figures to become highly competitive.


House

NH-1:  Executive Councilor Nick Pappas (D-Manchester) announced that he will join the open seat field of candidates for the 1st Congressional District.  The eastern New Hampshire seat has defeated more incumbents since 2006 than any single congressional district in the country.  Current Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester), who was twice defeated herself only to come back each time, has already announced that she will not run again.  This race will be highly competitive.  The New Hampshire Executive Council is a five-person elected board, divided into single-member districts, that has a check on the Governor's veto power. 

NH-2:  Former state House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan (R) announced that he is ending his congressional campaign.  Mr. Flanagan was one of four candidates who had announced candidacies for the Republican nomination.  The eventual winner will challenge Rep. Annie Kuster (D-Concord), who was re-elected in 2016 with only a 50-45% margin.  The remaining candidates include state Rep. Steve Negron, physician Stewart Levenson, and 2016 candidate Jay Mercer.  Despite her close call last November, Rep. Kuster will be a decided favorite for re-election to a fourth term. 

OH-16:  State House Majority Whip Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), a former state Senate Majority Floor Leader, announced yesterday that he is ending his congressional campaign for the open 16th District.  Mr. Patton's newborn grandson is in a life-threatening situation, thus continuing his run for Congress, he says, would impede upon his family responsibility.  Therefore, Rep. Patton will instead seek re-election to his current position in the state legislature.  This leaves former Indianapolis Colts and Ohio State University football star Anthony Gonzalez as the leading Republican congressional candidate.  He has raised more than $600,000 for the effort, an almost 6:1 ratio over his remaining top competitor, state Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township).  The 16th District is reliably Republican.  Four-term Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) is not seeking re-election in order to run for Governor.

PA-9:  While so many of his colleagues, particularly those whose committee chairmanships are expiring at the end of this Congress, are announcing their retirements, nine-term Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona) made public this week his intention to seek re-election.  Speculation was relatively heavy that the Congressman might retire since he had a close primary in 2016, his Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairmanship is ending, and the threat of a new redistricting map before the next election could radically change his district.  But, Mr. Shuster has chosen to stay.  Assuming no change in district boundaries, the Congressman will be a clear favorite for re-election.

PA-18:  It appears that state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth/Jefferson Hills) made the right move in withdrawing from the US Senate race and jumping into the vacated House special election when Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) resigned his seat.  Early in the past week, Mr. Saccone won the special Republican nominating convention, defeating state Sens. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Bethel Park) and Kim Ward (R-Greensburg).  The convention featured 215 voting members from the district's four counties.  Mr. Saccone, first elected to the state House in 2010 after a US Air Force career in counterintelligence and serving as a US diplomat in North Korea, won the nomination on the second ballot after Sen. Ward was eliminated in the first round of voting.  The Democrats will nominate their candidate on November 19th.  The special election is scheduled for March 13th, and Mr. Saccone begins the campaign as a heavy favorite to secure the safely Republican western Pennsylvania seat.

TX-29:  Veteran Texas Democratic Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston/Pasadena) became the sixth member of the state's delegation to not seek re-election next year.  Yesterday, Mr. Green announced that he will retire after 13 terms in the House, originally winning election in 1992.  Rep. Green has continually represented the majority Hispanic Democratic seat since that time.  The 29th District, which meanders within and around Houston and then stretches to the Pasadena area, is 77% Hispanic and safely Democratic.  We can expect a large number of Democrats to now come forward to join former Harris County Sheriff and ex-Houston City Councilman Adrian Garcia, who challenged Mr. Green in the 2016 Democratic primary and had already announced his candidacy for next year.  The Green retirement now brings the regular cycle open seat count to 35.

VA-2:  Democrats were excited about the electoral prospects of retired Air Force Colonel Doug Belote in a district that is moving more toward a politically marginal status.  Late this week and due to illness in his family, Col. Belote announced that he is withdrawing from the race.  Three other Democrats remain, but party leaders are now looking toward state Senator Lynwood Lewis as a viable alternative.  Freshman Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) defends the southeastern Virginia Tidewater district in what could become a competitive campaign.


Governor

California:  The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll (10/27-11-6; 1,504 California adults) was just released into the public domain.  As has been the case for every survey, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) leads the diverse, multi-candidate field.  He scores 31% support within this sampling universe, ahead of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) who posts 21% support.  Republican state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) is next with 15%, followed by Democratic state Treasurer John Chiang (12%), and GOP businessman John Cox (11%).  The latter man is a former presidential and Illinois federal candidate.  Democrats are prohibitive favorites to hold the California Governor's mansion.  Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is ineligible to seek re-election.

Connecticut:  While the open Connecticut Governor's race has exploded with seven Democratic and 11 Republican candidates, one major political figure looming large on the horizon will not enter the race.  Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D) announced yesterday that she won't enter next year's gubernatorial campaign thus making the campaign to succeed outgoing Gov. Dan Malloy (D) even more unpredictable.

Iowa:  The Insight, LLC survey research firm tested the Iowa Democratic gubernatorial primary (8/8-10; 762 IA likely Democratic primary voters) and found that businessman Fred Hubbell, largely because of his early advertising campaign, has jumped out to the early lead.  According to the result, Mr. Hubbell would command 22% support.  He is followed by state Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) with 13%.  All of the other candidates: SEIU labor union leader Cathy Glasson, John Norris, the former chief of staff to then-Gov. Tom Vilsack, ex-state Democratic Party chairman Andrea McGuire, former Des Moines School Board president Jonathan Neiderbach, and Ross Wilburn, the ex-Iowa City Mayor, all fall under 7% support.  Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who ascended to her position when incumbent Terry Branstad (R) was appointed US Ambassador to China, will seek her first full term in the Hawkeye State's top political position.

Ohio:  Speculation had been rampant earlier in the year that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray (D) would resign his federal position and return to Ohio to run for Governor.  He was expected to leave in September to formally enter the statewide campaign, but did not.  Then, speculation became pretty clear that he would not become a candidate to the point that state Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill (D), who previously said he would not run for Governor if Mr. Cordray returned, announced last month that he would officially enter the gubernatorial race in February.  Now, it looks like Mr. Cordray, a former Ohio Attorney General and state Treasurer, will run for Governor after all.  This week, he announced that he is in fact resigning his position and returning to the Buckeye State, but still stopped short of declaring for Governor, however.

Pennsylvania:  With early polling suggesting that state Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) leading the GOP gubernatorial contest and businessman Jeff Bartos (R) leaving the US Senate campaign hoping to join Wagner has his Lt. Governor running mate, a new Republican gubernatorial candidate is emerging.  State House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-McCandless Township) says he will now become a gubernatorial candidate and compete for the nomination.  Businessman Paul Mango, who has just recently run a wave of television advertising, is also waging an active campaign.  The eventual Republican nominee will challenge first-term Gov. Tom Wolf (D) next November. 

Rhode Island:  According to a TargetPoint Consulting survey (11/4-6; 600 RI active voters; 433 registered Republican households) conducted for 2014 gubernatorial nominee Allan Fung, he leads state House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan and former state Representative and Trump honorary Rhode Island campaign co-chairman Joe Trillo by a respective 45-24-10% split.  In the proposed general election, Mr. Fung claims a 46-41% edge over Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), who records an upside-down favorability ratio of 43:49%.   While Rhode Island is one of the nation's most reliably Democratic states, the party has only elected two of the last six Governors.

Wisconsin:  Labor leader Mahlon Mitchell (D), who was the party's Lt. Governor nominee when Democrats attempted to re-call Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in 2012, announced that he will join the enlarging Democratic gubernatorial field, one of whom will challenge Gov. Walker next year.   Adding Mr. Mitchell means that 14 candidates are running in the Democratic primary, a race that won't be settled until next August.  Among the more prominent contenders are state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Buffalo County), state Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), and Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.


November 10, 2017
2017 State Race Results and House Retirements
by Jim Ellis
 
Senate
 
Alabama:  Sexual misconduct allegations involving a minor, reportedly occurring 38 years ago, are being levied against state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) as the special US Senate election moves toward the last 30 days before the December 12th vote.  Judge Moore denies the accusations and blames the Washington Post for spreading untruths about him for political gain.  Alabama Republicans appear to be standing behind Moore.  Washington Republicans are calling on him to step down if the allegations are true.  Since we are inside of 76 days before the election, and some absentee ballots have already been mailed, there is no legal way to remove Moore's name though some are suggesting that Sen. Luther Strange (R), who lost the Republican nomination earlier in the year, could run a write-in effort. 
 
The Raycom News Network's new survey (Strategy Research; 11/8; 2,200 AL likely voters via automated telephonic device) again finds Judge Moore leading ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D), 51-40%.  This is the exact same result Raycom found in their October 19th survey. 
 
Arizona:  As predicted, things have already begun to turn against former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) now that Sen. Jeff Flake (R) won't seek re-election.  The HighGround Public Affairs Consultants tested the Arizona general election field (10/23-26; 500 AZ likely voters) and paired Ms. Ward with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), the leading Democratic candidate.  According to the HighGround results, the Congresswoman posted a 34-27% lead over Ward, gaining from the 32-31% slight edge that she held in the group's August poll.  The latter survey was conducted before Sen. Flake made his political intentions clear.  We can soon expect other, and likely stronger, Republicans to join this new open seat campaign.
 
Indiana:  Former state Rep. Mike Braun is becoming a legitimate third candidate in the Indiana Senate race.  Loaning $850,000 to his campaign and having more than $1 million cash-on-hand, Mr. Braun just spent over $300,000 to finance a media buy featuring an introductory commercial in the state's key media markets.  He faces Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) in the Senate Republican primary.  The eventual winner of the May intra-party vote challenges vulnerable Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the general election.
 
Nevada:  While others are announcing retirements around him, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) is taking the opposite approach.  The first-term Senator just launched his first ad buy of the new cycle. Sen. Heller has drawn primary opposition from perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian (R), and looks to face freshman Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) in the general election should he win re-nomination.  Both the primary and general election contests today appear as toss-ups.
 
Pennsylvania:  Real estate developer Jeff Bartos (R), who has been actively campaigning in the US Senate race, announced that he will leave the federal campaign in order to enter the Lt. Governor's race.  Mr. Bartos' exit certainly helps Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) cement his favorite's role at this point in the primary campaign.  The eventual GOP nominee faces Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) in the general election.
 
House
 
Pennsylvania:  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced that it is giving the lower court considering the Democrats' political gerrymandering lawsuit only until the end of the year to rule.  The high court says it will take jurisdiction of the case, meaning the chances of a re-draw before the 2018 elections increase.  If the Republican legislature is forced to re-draw and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoes the plan, Democrats will almost surely gain a significant number of seats if the Democratic-majority court assigns a special master to create new congressional districts.  The Pennsylvania situation is an issue of great significance and could be a major factor in determining the balance of power in the next House of Representatives.
 
NJ-2:  Twelve-term veteran Republican Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor City) announced that he will not seek re-election next year, placing a marginally political district into competition for the 2018 election cycle.  Democrats had attempted to field strong candidates over the years against Mr. LoBiondo, but never came close to beating him.  His 2016 victory of 59% was a typical re-election percentage throughout his long career.  New Jersey's 2nd District occupies the southernmost section of the state, anchored in Atlantic City and stretching from Long Beach Island in the northeast down to the Cape May peninsula, and all the way back across the state to the Delaware River opposite Wilmington. 
 
TN-7:  The Nashville Songwriters Association International's president, Lee Thomas Miller (R), filed an exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission, which allows him to raise money for a purported congressional campaign.  Mr. Miller is a well-known country songwriter and joins the race for the seat being vacated by veteran Rep. Marsha Blackburn's (R-Brentwood) run for the Senate.  The 7th District is safely Republican, occupying the rural and suburban areas west and south of Nashville, encompassing all or parts of 17 counties.  So far, only state Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville) has officially declared his candidacy.
 
TX-2:  With a December 11th candidate filing deadline for next year's election looming on the political horizon, members and potential contenders are being forced to make career decisions.  This explains the Texas retirement announcements that include Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Dallas), Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), and Houston area Congressman Ted Poe (R-Atascocita/Humble).  Mr. Poe, this week, made public his intention to not seek re-election to an eighth term.  He was originally elected in 2004, and has had little opposition in six re-election bids.  The 2nd District is safely Republican.  The Poe decision should lead to a crowded Republican primary field.
 
TX-5:  Rep. Jeb Hensarling's (R-Dallas) surprise retirement announcement has sent the north Texas political establishment scrambling.  No Republican has yet declared his or her candidacy, but one key potential contender has said no.  Wealthy state Senate candidate Phillip Huffines (R) said he will not alter his political plans to switch to the open congressional race.  On the other hand, east Texas state Senator Bryan Hughes (R-Wood County) is reportedly moving closer to entering the congressional race.  Sen. Hughes was initially elected to a four-year term in 2016 after spending seven terms in the state House, so he would not have to risk his current position to run. 
 
UT-3:  While votes in Utah's 3rd District are still being counted as a result of the all-mail format, Provo Mayor John Curtis (R) has already been declared the winner of Tuesday's special election to replace resigned Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy).  Though almost 40% of the precincts remained to be counted after the initial posting, more than 108,000 votes have been tabulated and Mr. Curtis has attracted 58% of the vote compared to Democrat Kathryn Allen's 27%.  Four independent and minor party candidates account for the remainder.  Mr. Curtis will now serve the balance of the current term and is a virtual certainty to seek a full term next November.
 
VA-6:  Veteran Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that he will not seek re-election next year.  Mr. Goodlatte's term as the panel's chairman will also expire at the end of this Congress.  He was first elected in 1992 and has had little in the way of challenges over his long career from the safely Republican western Virginia district.  In addition to chairing the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Goodlatte previously led the House Agriculture Committee.  He becomes the 34th regular cycle member and 24th Republican to retire from the House when the current term ends, with one more (PA-18; former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh)) in special election mode to be filled on March 13th. 
 
Governor
 
Colorado:  First-term Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R), wife of US Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), announced that she is joining the open Governor's campaign.  The move is a bit of a surprise.  Ms. Coffman is always mentioned as a candidate, but the prevailing political wisdom suggested that she would ultimately seek re-election to her current position.  It’s possible that former US Representative and 2008 presidential candidate Tom Tancredo's (R-Littleton) entry into the race changes the picture to the degree that Ms. Coffman believes the primary electorate would turn to her as the alternative candidate instead of Arapahoe region District Attorney George Brauchler (R).  With Coffman now in the Governor's race, Mr. Brauchler may switch to the open Attorney General's campaign.  Democrats will likely have a primary battle between US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne.  The general election is expected to be highly competitive.
 
New Jersey:  As predicted, former US Ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D) easily defeated Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno (R), 55-43%.  Polling for months had forecast such an outcome, and the electorate deviated very little during the entire general election.  Democrats held their large majorities in both houses of the state legislature.  Mr. Murphy succeeds outgoing Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who leaves office with historically poor approval ratings.
 
Virginia:  Democrats, riding a tidal wave of votes from northern Virginia, swept all three statewide Virginia elections, and may have captured the House of Delegates.  Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam easily defeated former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, 54-45%, with a turnout of more than 2.61 million voters - an increase of about 16% when compared to the 2013 election.  Democrats scored convincing but slightly smaller wins for Lt. Governor and Attorney General.  The Northam victory margin was much larger than polling had forecast. 
 
The Party also scored major gains in the House of Delegates, recording a net gain of at least 15 seats with as many as five races potentially headed to re-counts.  It will likely take several days and maybe weeks to sort out, but the chamber majority is definitely undecided as Republicans are clinging to a scant 51-49 majority on the back of one district in Newport News where their incumbent appears to have won by only twelve votes.

November 1, 2017
Candidates Mulling Newly Open Arizona Senate Race and Polling Gap Closing in Virginia Governor's Race
By Jim Ellis

Senate

A new Axis Research poll (conducted for the Senate Leadership Fund; 10/24-26; 503 AL likely special election voters) projects Republican nominee Roy Moore, the former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, opening up a large 56-39% lead over former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones (D).  The sample looks to contain a Republican skew, however, so the advantage might not be as large as this margin suggests.  Still, it appears that Judge Moore is comfortably ahead as the candidates head toward a December 12th special election date.

A number of potential candidates are reported to be considering jumping into the open Arizona Senate race now that Sen. Jeff Flake (R) won't seek re-election.  Among them are Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), former US Representative and 2002 gubernatorial nominee Matt Salmon (R-Mesa), Arizona University Regent Jay Heiler, and three individuals only recently being mentioned: Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott), who originally said he would run for re-election but is now re-considering his options, former Rep. John Shadegg (R-Scottsdale) who retired in 2011, and ex-one-term Rep. Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. 

Kelli Ward, the former state Senator who challenged John McCain in 2016 and was opposing Sen. Flake this year, remains in the race.  Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale) is not likely to run for the Senate, reportedly being more interested in seeking the Governorship when that position opens in 2022.  So far, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) is the lone Democratic contender. 

The 1892 polling firm, a company that has conducted several surveys for North Dakota political campaigns, released their study for state Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton), an announced GOP US Senate primary candidate.  The poll (10/11-12; 500 ND registered voters; 400 ND likely Republican primary voters) gives Sen. Campbell a 32-24% lead over former at-large US Rep. Rick Berg in a hypothetical GOP primary.  Mr. Berg has not announced his Senate candidacy, and more than likely will not run.  The general election numbers are highly surprising, however, and will have to be confirmed in future surveys.  The results: Campbell leading Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), 44-41%.  Currently, the Senator is favored for re-election, but polls such as this suggest that a highly competitive campaign is on the North Dakota political horizon.

House

Peter Tedeschi (R), chairman of the Tedeschi Food Shops, which owns 181 stores throughout New England, announced that he will challenge four-term Massachusetts Rep. Bill Keating (D-Bourne/Cape Cod) next year in a contest that could become competitive. Usually a reliably Democratic seat, the 9th District can swing Republican in statewide contests.  Gov. Charlie Baker (R) will have to run well here to win re-election, thus ensuring a strong Republican turnout operation within the CD boundaries.  Mr. Keating has averaged an underwhelming 52.7% average victory margin in his four congressional races, weak for a Massachusetts Democrat.  This race could become one to watch.

House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Dallas) announced that he will not seek a ninth term from his northeast Texas congressional district next year.  Mr. Hensarling's chairmanship tenure is also scheduled to end at the conclusion of the current Congress.  The seat is strongly Republican - Mr. Hensarling has averaged over 73% of the vote in seven re-election campaigns, for example - so the GOP will be heavily favored to keep the seat.  The Hensarling retirement brings the total number of regular election open seats to 31, of which 21 are Republican-held.  A vacant seat in Utah will be filled next week in a special election.

Governor

Former five-term Colorado Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo announced early this week that he will enter the 2018 open Governor's race.  Mr. Tancredo was last elected to the House in 2006, and served his final term while running an unsuccessful long shot 2008 presidential campaign.  He would return to Colorado state politics in 2010 to run for Governor as the Constitution Party nominee when the Republican general election candidate was forced to withdraw, and then ran again four years later after returning to the GOP.  Currently, the Republican gubernatorial field is already large, led by state Treasurer Walker Stapleton and Arapahoe region District Attorney George Brauchler.  Democrats are favored to hold the open position.  Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appears a sure bet for re-election next year, but Democrats are still attempting to recruit a viable challenger.  With no recruitment luck so far, they appear to be turning to businessman Andrew White, the son of recently deceased former Gov. Mark White (D) who came to office when defeating Republican Gov. Bill Clements in 1982.  Governor White subsequently lost a re-match with Clements four years later.  Regardless of whom the Democrats might field, Gov. Abbott is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.  Currently, his campaign bank account exceeds $40 million signaling that the Governor is ready to actively defend his position.

Five new polls have been released in the Virginia Governor's race as the candidates enter their last week of campaigning before the November 7th general election.  The polls range from Republican Ed Gillespie leading by eight points (Hampton University) to Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam being ahead 17 percentage points (Quinnipiac University).  The preponderance of analysts believes, however, that Mr. Northam has only a slight advantage as voting begins.

A new Suffolk University poll (9/19-23; 500 NJ likely voters) tested the 2017 general election gubernatorial candidates.  This poll, like others before it, shows former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy (D) continuing to lead Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) by substantial margins.  According to their latest data, Mr. Murphy's advantage is 44-25%.  In the only potential opening Guadagno may have, the Democratic nominee's trust factor appears low and the top issue is high taxes - levies that Murphy has already said he would support raising.


October 25, 2017
Impact of Flake Retirement and Polling the Florida Senate Race
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Two new Alabama US Senate special election polls were released in the latter part of last week, each with highly conflicting results.  Fox News (10/14-16; 801 AL registered voters) projects that former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) and ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D), are tied at 42%, apiece.  But, the Raycom News Network survey (10/16, 3,000 AL likely voters) arrives at the complete opposite conclusion, data that is more consistent with other polling.  Raycom finds Moore leading, 51-40%.  The special election is scheduled for December 12th.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor early this week to announce he is not seeking re-election for a second term, bowing to his longstanding feud with President Trump and poor polling numbers.  The latest surveys find him losing both the Republican nomination to former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and the general to US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix).  Other Republicans, possibly including state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), will likely be lining up for a shot at the newly open statewide position.  Prior to the Flake announcement, Rep. Sinema was well on her way to becoming a consensus party candidate.  Under this new open political scenario, it is unclear whether other Democrats will decide to enter.  Actually, without the damaged Flake as their general election nominee, Republican chances of holding this seat improve.

A new University of North Florida survey (Public Opinion Research Lab; 10/11; 838 FL registered voters) tested Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R), the unannounced GOP Senatorial candidate.  UNF last conducted a statewide poll in February.  Their October data finds the two men separated by only a single point, with Sen. Nelson clinging to a 37-36% edge.  Eight months ago, the Nelson lead was 44-38%.  Gov. Scott's job approval numbers have increased from a tepid 46:40% favorable to unfavorable in February to a robust 59:28%, an extraordinary improvement over that course of time.  By contrast, Sen. Nelson's latest ratio is 25:15%, with both his positive and negative scores trending downward since the early 2017 study was published.

Much attention has been paid to the two Congressmen running for the Indiana Senate seat, but a third candidate there could well become a factor, too.  State Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) has resigned his seat in the Indiana House to devote full time to his Senate run.  He's already put $800,000 of his own money into his campaign, thus pushing his campaign treasury to over $1 million.  Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) are the leading contenders, but with the pair likely engaging in a negative campaign an outside positive alternative could become attractive.  The eventual Republican nominee faces vulnerable Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the general election.

Mississippi Democrats have a Senatorial candidate prospect.  Brandon Presley represents the state's northern district on the statewide Public Service Commission, and is the cousin of the late rock and roll music legend, Elvis Presley.  Commissioner Presley confirms he is considering the race.  The general election could become more interesting if incumbent Roger Wicker (R) has a difficult time topping state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellis County), should the latter man oppose him in the Republican primary.

As expected, Tennessee former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) announced that he will enter the new open seat Republican Senatorial primary.  He will face at least Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and Andy Ogles, the former Tennessee director of the Americans for Prosperity advocacy group.  Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen, after originally saying he would not enter the race, is potentially reversing course.  He says he will now decide in the next few weeks about whether to launch his candidacy.  Sen. Bob Corker (R), last week, announced that he will not seek a third term.

House

In 2016, South Florida attorney Tim Canova (D) attracted over $4 million in support, largely from Bernie Sanders' supporters across the nation, for his primary challenge to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston).  At the time, Ms. Wasserman Schultz was Democratic National Committee chair and resigned in controversy during the campaign.  Even with money and favorable circumstance the result didn't turn out favorably for Canova as he lost, 43-57%.  But, the failed result has not deterred him from launching a new challenge.  The Canova campaign, however, is not off to a brisk start.  So far, the challenger has only raised $78,000 for his 2018 effort, and has just $10,000 in the bank.  It appears the Congresswoman will have a much easier path to re-nomination come next August.

Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, announced that he will run for the Hoosier State's open 6th Congressional District.  This is the eastern Indiana seat that Mike Pence represented for twelve years before becoming the state's Governor, and then VP.  The district will be vacant because three-term Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) is running for Senate.  Mr. Pence will be a big favorite to win the Republican primary, a nomination that is tantamount to claiming the seat in November.

Governor

A new We Ask America automated poll conducted for the Illinois Capitol Fax organization (10/17-18; 1,154 IL likely Democratic primary voters) finds venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker leading the race for a party gubernatorial nomination that will be decided in March.  His recent dropping of $21 million on a statewide ad blitz has apparently paid dividends for Mr. Pritzker.  The poll results find him jumping out to a substantial 39-15-6% advantage over Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY), and state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Skokie).  The winner then challenges vulnerable Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) who already has more than $66 million in his campaign treasury.


October 18, 2017
Latest Polls in AL, NJ, & VA and Political Announcements from CA to PA  
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

A new Alabama US Senate special election poll was released late last week.  The Cygnal polling firm (10/2-5; 497 AL likely special election voters) finds former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) leading ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D), 49-41%.  Moore has a strong twelve-point advantage with the highest propensity voters, meaning his statewide margin could be even greater under the low turnout model that is forecast.  The special election is scheduled for December 12th. 

Last week we reported that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced she will seek re-election to a fifth full term next year.  Over the weekend, state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) declared his candidacy against the veteran incumbent, making it clear that he intends to attack her from the left.  Under the state's jungle primary system, it is probable that both Sen. Feinstein and state Sen. de Leon will advance to the general election.  Though the state legislative leader will be able to command resources in his Senatorial effort, Sen. Feinstein remains the clear favorite to win again in 2018.

House

We of course remember Jon Ossoff, the Georgia Democratic special election nominee who spent over $35 million in his losing effort to convert the GA-6 special election.  Now it looks like he has competition for next year's Democratic nomination.  Bobby Kaple, a well-known local CBS News affiliate anchorman recently entered the primary election and will oppose Ossoff, assuming the latter man makes a return appearance as a candidate.  In any event, it will be even more difficult to defeat Rep. Karen Handel (R-Roswell) now that she is an active incumbent.

New Hampshire Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester) surprisingly announced that she will not seek re-election in the one district that has defeated more incumbents than any other since 2006, inclusive.  The Congresswoman was first elected in 2006, re-elected two years later, defeated in 2010, returned in 2012, defeated again in 2014, and once more claimed the seat last November.  Her 44% victory percentage against a scandal-tainted Republican Congressman and a Libertarian candidate revealed severe political weakness, which is clearly a factor in her not running again. 

Democrats are now scrambling to find a candidate, while three Republicans had been running before the announcement.  State Sen. Andy Sanborn (R-Bedford), former South Hampton Police Chief Eddie Edwards, and judicial reform activist Andy Martin remain active candidates.  Others are soon expected to join the fray.  This seat will remain in the toss-up category throughout the remainder of the election cycle.

Pennsylvania Congressman Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) again withdrew from being nominated as the nation's director of the National Drug Control Policy agency this time after adverse media coverage over an apparent contradiction regarding drug enforcement legislation that the Representative helped shepherd through Congress.  The move means that the 10th District will no longer go to special election, and is not an open seat.  Mr. Marino did not indicate in his withdrawal statement whether he would seek re-election, but he will likely not have a difficult run should he choose to do so.

Governor 

Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) made her long-awaited decision about whether to enter the state's open Governor's race next year.  Late last week, Sen. Collins announced that she will not run for Governor, choosing to remain focused on her duties in the Senate.  This leads state Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport) and former Secretary of State Charlie Summers to begin making moves to enter the race.  Already, ex-Health & Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, state Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon) and House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport) are in the race.  No less than ten Democrats are vying for their party nomination.  Gov. Paul LePage (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Fairleigh Dickinson University tested the New Jersey electorate for the state's upcoming gubernatorial campaign scheduled for November 7th.  Their poll (10/11-15; 658 NJ likely voters) finds former US Ambassador to Germany and Wall Street executive Phil Murphy (D) again leading Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) by a double-digit margin.  This result finds the spread, 47-33%.  Ms. Guadagno's biggest problem is being associated with beleaguered Gov. Chris Christie (R).  His favorability continues to be historically low for a New Jersey Governor, and his presence and record looms large in this election. 

Christopher Newport University is out with their latest Virginia gubernatorial poll (10/9-13; 642 likely VA voters) and finds Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam's (D) lead over former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie is dissipating.  Last week, they found a 49-42% spread.  This week, it's 48-44%.  The movement toward Gillespie coincides with Monmouth University (10/12-16; 408 VA likely voters) producing results that actually find the Republican forging ahead, 48-47%.  The Virginia Governor's race also will be held November 7th.


October 11, 2017
Polling in VA & MD Governor Races and Blackburn to run for TN Senate
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein who, at 84 years of age is the body's oldest member, announced that she will seek re-election to a fifth full term next year.  It is possible that she will draw a challenge from her left, however.  State Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) has been making public statements about opposing the Senator, incensed by some positive comments she made about President Trump while also saying that new gun laws would not have stopped the Las Vegas massacre.  Should de Leon run, it is likely that we will see a campaign lasting through the general election because members of the same party can advance through the state's June qualifying election system.  In any event, Sen. Feinstein will be a heavy favorite to win again in 2018.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), the Republicans' top Senatorial prospect, announced that he will challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year.  The Show Me State has moved considerably to the right since the Senator last sought re-election in 2012, so this campaign likely becomes the GOP's top challenge race in the country. This race must be rated an early toss-up.

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) announced that she will seek the state's open Senate seat now that incumbent Bob Corker (R) will not run for re-election.  Simultaneously, Gov. Bill Haslam (R), who had been considering making his own Senate bid, stated that he will not enter the race.  Also looking at declaring candidacies are former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) and ex-state Rep. and US Senate candidate Joe Carr.  Andy Ogles, the Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity who had declared a primary challenge to Sen. Corker, remains in the race.  Four Democrats took themselves out of consideration for the Senate: former Gov. Phil Bredesen, US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, and businessman and former Nashville mayoral candidate Bill Freeman. 

House

Scandal-ridden Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) announced that he will resign from office effective October 21st.  This means the southwestern PA seat will go to special election likely after the first of the year.  Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will call the vote once the seat officially becomes vacant.  Under Pennsylvania election law, the local political party committee members will choose a nominee to run in one special general election.  After Gov. Wolf schedules the vote, the parties will announce their nomination procedure and timetable.  With President Trump scoring a 58-38% win here last November and Rep. Murphy running unopposed in the last two elections, the eventual Republican nominee will be a prohibitive favorite to hold the seat.

Already, western Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn's (R-Brentwood) newly open House seat has drawn a major candidate.  State Sen. Mark Green (R-Ripley), who was President Trump's choice for Secretary of the Army before he withdrew when the confirmation process turned problematic, immediately announced that he will enter the open House contest.  The 7th District sits between Nashville and Memphis, touching the outer suburbs of both communities.  It is a safely Republican seat that will almost assuredly be decided in the Republican primary.  Former Tennessee Republican Party chairman and ex-presidential campaign manager Chip Saltsman is also a potential congressional candidate as is Nashville Songwriters Association president Lee Thomas Miller.

Governor

A new poll was released in the upcoming Maryland Governor's race that features Republican Gov. Larry Hogan seeking re-election in this most Democratic of states.  The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research organization published their latest results (9/27-30; 625 MD registered voters) and found Gov. Hogan to be leading all of his announced opponents with varying levels of strength.  Opposite Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, the Hogan margin is 46-39%.  He records a 48-35% spread over Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, 49-33% over former NAACP President Ben Jealous, and 49-30% against state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County).  Though Gov. Hogan enjoys some of the strongest approval ratings in the country, 61:26% favorable to unfavorable according to this M-D survey, his ballot test standing is not as strong.

The Washington Post/Schar School poll was released this week (9/29-10/2; 720 VA likely voters) and the data shows Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) now holding a commanding 53-40% lead over former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.  But, the poll may be skewed.  The Republican segment is low based upon voter history, and the Democratic percentage seem to arbitrarily increase four percentage points over their last several poll releases.  Furthermore, the final 2013 version of this same poll going into that year's election projected a twelve-point Democratic win for Terry McAuliffe, a race that was decided with only a 48-45% margin. 

Additionally, Christopher Newport University published their latest poll (10/2-6; 928 registered voters; 616 likely voters) and finds Northam also holding a comfortable lead.  Their ballot test results find the Democratic nominee ahead 49-42%.  The Virginia Governor's race is scheduled for November 7th.


October 4, 2017
Democratic Challengers Start to Announce for 2018
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

The first special Alabama Senate general election poll was published this week, and former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore (R) begins with a small but discernible 50-45% lead over ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D).  These results come from the Opinion Savvy research firm (9/27-28; 590 likely and possible special general election voters), which conducted the first special general election survey. 

It also appears that each candidate benefits from a polling skew.  The survey sample contains more women than the electorate as a whole, a group with whom Mr. Jones fares better, while Judge Moore is credited with getting 24% support within the African American community, a percentage that clearly won't stand.  The evangelical vote will again be critical.  Judge Moore gets close to 70% support within this religious segment, while Mr. Jones attracts the same total from non-evangelicals.  The special general is scheduled for December 12th, and this first poll suggests that Jones is in position to run a competitive campaign.

Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), who had already raised more than $3 million at the end of June ostensibly for her re-election campaign in what is now a safe district for her, announced that she will enter the Democratic US Senate primary to challenge vulnerable Republican first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R). 

Immediately, Democrats began coalescing around her statewide candidacy.  Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton who, along with state Rep. Randy Friese (D-Tucson) was considering running for the Senate, fell in line behind Rep. Sinema.  Mayor Stanton is expected to run for the Congresswoman's open House seat, and Dr. Friese says he will seek re-election to the state House.  The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly jumped into the race to announce its endorsement of Ms. Sinema.  With a united Democratic Party behind Sinema, and Sen. Flake having trouble in his own Republican primary, this Senate race is now a legitimate toss-up campaign.

Cherry Communications, the regular pollster for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, went into the field after Hurricane Irma passed to test the potential Sunshine State Senate race between three-term incumbent Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R).  For the first time, and possibly due to receiving high marks for his handling of the Hurricane Irma catastrophe, Gov. Scott is now leading Sen. Nelson.  According to the Cherry poll (9/17-24; 615 FL likely voters via telephone interviews), Gov. Scott now maintains a small 47-45% edge.  In previous polls, it was the veteran Senator Nelson who consistently posted a similarly small lead. 

House

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announcing for the Senate means her Maricopa County US House district will be open next year.  As mentioned above, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) appears a sure bet to enter the race, but he won't do so until next year.  Arizona has a "resign to run" law, meaning he would have to leave his current position if he announces for another office more than a year in advance of the election.  Former state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell is another potential Democratic candidate. 

Republicans won't concede this seat, even though the district has trended Democratic since its creation in 2012.  Physician Steve Ferrara, a retired Navy captain, is already in the race, anticipating that Rep. Sinema would run for the Senate.  Even before the June campaign filing disclosure period, Dr. Ferrara had exceeded the $250,000 mark in dollars raised.  So, this open seat campaign could develop into one to watch.

Georgia Democratic former House member John Barrow (D-Savannah) served five terms in Congress before his defeat at the hands of Rep. Rick Allen (R-Augusta) in 2014.  While it was believed that he would return to elective politics, he had yet to make a play for a new political position.  Now, the former Representative has decided upon his political comeback.  He announced that he will enter Georgia's open Secretary of State race next year. 

Utah US Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) may draw a serious challenger next year.  Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) confirms that he is considering opposing the two-term House member.  Utah's overwhelming Republican voting history continues to make Rep. Love the favorite to win but, should McAdams enter the race, this could become a campaign worthy of attention.

Governor

It appears the Rhode Island GOP will field at least two strong gubernatorial candidates, each vying to challenge first-term incumbent Gina Raimondo (D) next November.  Cranston Mayor Allen Fung, who lost to Raimondo 41-36% with three Independents splitting the remaining votes, will soon make a formal candidate declaration announcement.   State House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan officially announced her candidacy, meaning a significant primary will commence.  Gov. Raimondo has poor favorability ratings and, with only a 41% victory percentage four years ago, this could become a competitive campaign despite Rhode Island's strong Democratic voting history.

 
 

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