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.


February 15, 2019
North Carolina and Pennsylvania to Hold Special Elections to Fill House Vacancies
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: CA Dem primary poll shows home state U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris tied with former VP Joe Biden, followed closely by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders      
  • AZ-Sen: Astronaut Mark Kelly (D) announces 
  • NC-3: Rep. Walter Jones (R) passes away; special election details pending
  • PA-12 Special: Democrats choose former congressional nominee and college professor Marc Friedenberg as nominee; GOP choose nominee at party convention on March 2          
  • KY-Gov: Dem primary poll finds AG Andy Beshear leading other Democratic Party rivals
  • MS-Gov: Ex-Justice Bill Waller Jr. enters GOP primary

President

Michael Bloomberg:  Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a few days ago that he will decide within three weeks whether to enter the presidential campaign.  Most observers expect him to become a candidate.  If he does, the multi-billionaire is pledging to spend $500 million of his own money to advance his drive to win the Presidency.

California Poll:  The Change Research organization conducted a California Democratic presidential primary survey and found that home state Senator Kamala Harris is not dominating the field.  According to the just-released survey (2/9-11; 948 CA likely Democratic presidential primary voters), Sen. Harris can do no better than tie former Vice President Joe Biden for first place, at 26% apiece.  Closely following is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-D/VT) at 20%. No other candidate reaches 10%.

If the former Vice President and Sen. Sanders decide not to run, it is then Sen. Harris who takes charge.  Without Mr. Biden in the field, the California first term Senator develops a commanding 53-23% lead over Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), with all the also-rans scoring no better than 7 percent.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar & Elizabeth Warren:  As expected, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar joined the Democratic presidential field last Sunday, announcing in the open air during a Minneapolis snow storm.  Meanwhile, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren officially converted her exploratory committee into a formal campaign entity.  We now have 11 Democrats who have either declared their candidacies or formed working exploratory committees.

National Poll:  The Morning Consult firm has released results of another of their presidential polls, this one conducted during the Feb 4-10 period.  The survey, of 11,627 likely Democratic primary voters or caucus attenders in addition to 517 Democratic voters in the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, again project former Vice President Joe Biden as the leader for the party nomination.

According to the national results, Mr. Biden leads Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-D/VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) by a 29-22-13% split, and a 33-21-11-10% division within the early states.  In the secondary poll, Sens. Sanders and Harris are again in second and third place with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren placing fourth just behind Ms. Harris.  In both polls, the remainder of the field - 19 candidates or potential candidates in all were tested - finishes well below the 10% mark.

Reps. Tim Ryan & Seth Moulton:  Though we haven't heard much from these men about their own presidential prospective campaigns, it appears such a trend will quickly change.  Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown) says he is seriously considering entering the national race and made appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire during the week.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) now confirms that he is contemplating a presidential run.  Adding these two to the burgeoning Democratic presidential field, it is again possible that the total number of candidates could soar past twenty.

Senate

Arizona:  As expected, Democrat Mark Kelly, husband to former Arizona US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) and part of the first twin brother team to ever fly in space, announced that he will enter the special Senate election to be held concurrently with this regular general election cycle.

After the announcement, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) reiterated through Twitter that he is still seriously considering mounting a campaign.  Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) is expected to run to fill the balance of the late Sen. John McCain's (R) final term in office.  On the heels of Mr. Kelly's formal announcement, OH Predictive Insights conducted a flash poll of the state's electorate (2/11-13; 600 AZ likely voters) and found Sen. McSally leading Mr. Kelly, 44-42%. Clearly a close November 2020 race is expected.

Additionally, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, who served as a Republican but then later joined the Democratic Party, said that he will not enter the 2020 special Senate election campaign.

Colorado:  About this time two years ago, Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) held a major announcement event to declare his candidacy in the open Governor's race.  But his statewide campaign did not last long.  Soon, he was saying not only would he end his gubernatorial bid, but also his congressional career.  Changing his mind yet again before the candidate filing deadline, Rep. Perlmutter ultimately filed for, and won, re-election.

This week, the Congressman again stated that he is considering entering the Democratic primary for US Senate with the hope of challenging first-term incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Tennessee:  State Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis), one of the Democrats thought to be eyeing the open US Senate race since incumbent Lamar Alexander (R) has already announced that he won't be seeking re-election, said that she will not run statewide next year.  At this point, only Iraq War veteran James Mackler, who for a time was in the 2016 Senate campaign but bowed out when former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) stated his intention to run, is the only announced open seat candidate.  Former Gov. Bill Haslam (R) promises a decision in March about whether he will seek the open Senate seat.

Texas:  While previously saying he would be concentrating on his twin brother Julian Castro's presidential race, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) now confirms that he is considering entering the US Senate race to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R) next year.  Ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-El Paso) strong finish in the 2018 Senate race against junior Senator Ted Cruz (R) gives Democrats some hope that they could unseat Sen. Cornyn.

M.J. Hegar is a decorated retired Army helicopter pilot who told her compelling personal story while challenging Texas Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) last November and holding him to a scant 51-48% re-election victory after raising $5 million for her campaign.  While many believed she would again seek the congressional seat, instead Ms. Hegar is sending signals suggesting that she is entertaining thoughts about running for the US Senate.

House

AZ-1:  Arizona's 1st Congressional District, which covers most of the state's territory east of Phoenix, has proven itself as a highly marginal political region that tends to lean slightly Democratic in congressional races but favors Republicans in the presidential contest.  Second-term Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Sedona) won a 54-46% re-election victory against frequent Republican candidate Wendy Rogers last November, but the race appeared to be more competitive than the final vote count indicated.

Mr. O'Halleran, who served in the state legislature as a Republican, announced this week that he will seek re-election in 2020.  Republicans will be expected to mount a serious challenge here.  Already, however, former Flagstaff City Council member Eva Putzova has announced a Democratic primary challenge, which likely prompted the Congressman to declare his future political intentions now.

NC-3:  After entering hospice in late January, veteran Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville), who was first elected to the US House in 1994 after serving ten years in the North Carolina state legislature, passed away yesterday on his 76th birthday.  Gov. Roy Cooper (D) will now be tasked with calling a special election to choose a successor to the 13-term Congressman who developed a conservative voting record but was often at odds with his own party's leadership. Mr. Jones' father, Walter B. Jones, Sr. (D), also was elected to Congress 13 times and, like his son, died in office.

PA-12:  Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) resigned from the House at the end of January ostensibly to accept a position in the private sector, but now we are learning he also has a health condition.  This creates a special election in the north-central Pennsylvania seat that Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has scheduled to be filled on May 21st, in conjunction with the state's municipal primary day.  The parties are to meet in a special district convention to decide nominees.  The Republican leaders announced that they have chosen March 2nd as their convention day.  Democrats have already chosen college professor and 2018 congressional nominee Marc Friedenberg as their nominee.  Mr. Friedenberg fell to Rep. Marino, 66-34%, in the November 2018 congressional contest.

SC-1:  The Trafalgar Group recently conducted a survey (1/28-2/1; 2,479 SC-1 likely GOP primary voters; automated) among potential Republican congressional candidates who may battle for the opportunity of challenging freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-Charleston), a surprise 2018 winner.  The seat promises to be at the top of the GOP conversion target list for the entire 2020 election cycle.

2018 GOP nominee Katie Arrington, who denied then-Rep. Mark Sanford (R-Charleston) re-nomination but lost to Cunningham in the general election, tops the large field of tested candidates.  With Mr. Sanford included, she would lead him 25-23% with the nine other named potential candidates all falling well below 10 percent.  Without Sanford in the field, she would touch 31% with state Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) leading the rest but with only 8% support.  If Arrington is not included, Mr. Sanford, who has yet to say whether he has interest in running again, almost reaches 37% with all of the others below the double-digit mark.

Governor

Kentucky:  The Garin Hart Yang Research firm recently tested Attorney General Andy Beshear in his battle for the Kentucky Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  The survey (2/4-7; 603 KY likely Democratic primary voters) finds the one-term AG substantially leading his two Democratic Party rivals in anticipation of the state's May 21st primary.

Against state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) and former state Auditor Adam Edelen, Mr. Beshear takes a commanding 55-17-7% lead over his two opponents.  Such is not particularly surprising when considering the Beshear name is well known to Kentucky Democratic primary voters.  Mr. Beshear's father, Steve Beshear, was the state's Governor from 2007-2015.

Mississippi:  It had been suggested for some time that former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. (R) may enter the 2019 gubernatorial campaign, but his final decision was surprising nonetheless.  While most believe Mr. Waller would run as an Independent or minor party candidate, he has decided to take a more traditional route. Instead of going straight into the general election and potentially become a spoiler, Mr. Waller announced late this week that he will challenge Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

The Mississippi general election is expected to be close against four-term Attorney General Jim Hook (D).  Lt. Gov. Reeves remains the clear favorite in the Republican primary, irrespective of Mr. Waller's presence as his GOP primary opponent.

Virginia:  While Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) now faces serious potential criminal charges, two polls were conducted testing whether respondents believe that Gov. Ralph Northam (D) should resign over his past racial antics.

The Washington Post-Schar Poll and the Democratic survey research firm Civiqs, polling for the liberal Daily Kos Elections website, arrived at very different results.  The Post's survey (2/6-8; 706 VA residents) found the state split as to whether Gov. Northam should resign.  According to this data, 47% believe he should step down while another 47% say Mr. Northam should remain in office.  But, the Civiqs results (2/5-8; 868 VA registered voters) see a much different sentiment.  According to this study, by a whopping 60-24%, the electorate says he should resign.

Though the polls were conducted over the same time period, the Post's survey includes all adults while Civiqs segmented only registered voters.  At this point, Mr. Northam says he will not resign and the flap involving Lt. Gov. Fairfax makes it more likely that the Governor will hold his position.


February 8, 2019
Third U.S. House Retirement Announced
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • SC-Sen: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) draws Dem opponent, former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Harrison   
  • GA-7: Rep. Rob Woodall (R) to retire            
  • PA-12: Ex-Rep. Lou Barletta (R) won't run in special election
  • WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice draws GOP primary opponent - former state Delegate Mike Folk (R)

President

Sen. Cory Booker:  New Jersey Senator Cory Booker announced, as promised, that he is joining the Democratic presidential field.  Though he is also in-cycle for re-election to the Senate in 2020, a new state law will allow him to run simultaneously for both offices.  Therefore, he is not risking his current position to enter the national fray.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar:  Another US Senator is set to enter the 2020 presidential contest. Reports suggest that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will officially enter the Democratic contest this weekend.  She will join fellow Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who have either announced their candidacy or formed an exploratory committee.  Sen. Klobuchar will be the first candidate from the Midwest.  Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is a possible contender but has yet to make any kind of formal announcement.

Iowa Poll:  The Emerson College Polling Institute (1/30-2/2; 831 IA registered voters; 260 IA likely caucus attenders) tested the Democratic field for the Iowa Caucuses one year from now, and the results project former Vice President Joe Biden to be holding the lead with 29% support.  Fresh from her announcement tour, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is second at 18%, followed closely by Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who claims 15% preference. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was next with 11%, and the last of the candidates to register double-digits.

In the second tier are former Texas US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) at 6%, two points ahead of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.  All others finish with 3% or less.  Turning to individual Iowa general election pairings with President Trump, only Mr. Biden finishes ahead of the incumbent, and even here the margin is a slight 51-49%.  If Starbucks former CEO Howard Schultz was included as an Independent candidate, Mr. Trump's margin with his Democratic opponent expands in each situation.

Senate

Alabama:  Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in the 2017 special election, facetiously says he would run again next year, but only if President Trump asked and would endorse him.  Since Rep. Brooks was a known critic of Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign and pummeled with his own statements about the President during the special election, Mr. Brooks ever receiving such a presidential request is highly unlikely.  The Alabama Senate race featuring incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D) will be hotly contested next November.

Kansas:Despite US Secretary of State and former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) repeatedly saying he is not running for retiring Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) open seat, rumors and conjecture continue to be put forth that he will change his mind.  It is clear that a Pompeo candidacy would likely put the seat safely in the Republican column since he has the best chance to bridge the internal Republican gap between the conservatives and moderates, hence state party leaders' interest in seeing him run.

South Carolina:  Former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jamie Harrison has filed an exploratory committee for a US Senate run.  At this point, most of the potential candidates are Republican looking to attempt to deny Sen. Graham re-nomination, which is his greatest threat.  None of the candidates appear strong, though former gubernatorial candidate and Greenville businessman John Warren (R) lurks in the wings continuing to be mentioned as a potential candidate.  At this point, Sen. Graham looks strong for re-nomination and re-election.

House

CA-25:   Former Rep. Steve Knight (R), who lost his seat in November to freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale), says he is highly unlikely to run again. He said he would reconsider only if "something happens that is very weird."

CO-6:  It's quite likely that former US Representative Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) will not be making a congressional comeback attempt against new Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora). Over the weekend, Mr. Coffman announced that he will run for Mayor of Aurora later this year in the city's municipal elections.

GA-7:  Five-term Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year.  The Congressman barely won in November, scratching out a 419-vote victory over former state Senate committee staff director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D).

Immediately upon hearing the Woodall declaration, Ms. Bourdeaux made a public statement saying she intends to run again.  Already in the Democratic primary are 2018 congressional candidate and chain store business owner David Kim, and attorney Marqus Cole.  A large number of Republicans, including several current and former state legislators, are expected to enter the newly open seat GOP primary.

IA-4:  The fallout from recent comments made by Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron/Sioux City) continues.  After the House Republican leadership stripped Rep. King of his committee assignments, state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) announced a 2020 Republican primary challenge against the nine-term Congressman, as did Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor, and former Irwin Mayor Bret Richards.  Now, talk suggests that Siouxland Chamber of Commerce president Chris McGowan may also become a GOP primary candidate.

Michigan Redistricting:  The plaintiffs and defendant in the Michigan congressional and state legislative redistricting legal challenge looked to have arrived at a pre-trial solution, but the federal judge hearing the case refused to accept the so-called compromise.  Because the suggested settlement was crafted between the Democratic plaintiffs and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the judge ruled that she does not have the legal standing to negotiate or accept terms.  And, the fact that the solution was negotiated by Democrats on both sides of the legal battle also prompted the judge to question the settlement.  As a result, the Michigan case will head to trial.

This controversy may be moot, however.  The US Supreme Court looks to issue potential landmark redistricting rulings before the end of June on cases from Maryland and North Carolina pertaining to both racial and political gerrymandering.  Therefore, final disposition of the Michigan case at the district level, should a decision come before the federal high panel acts, may be quickly superseded.

NE-2:   Former Rep. Brad Ashford's (D-Omaha) wife, Ann Ferlic Ashford, announced yesterday that she will enter the Democratic congressional primary in hopes of challenging two-term Republican incumbent Don Bacon (R-Papillion) next year.  Ms. Ashford almost ran in 2018, but the two agreed that her husband would attempt to regain the seat he lost to Mr. Bacon, a retired Air Force General.  Ashford then proceeded to lose the Democratic primary to non-profit organization executive Kara Eastman, who would then lose in a close 51-49% result to Rep. Bacon.

Ms. Ashford, however, will also face Ms. Eastman.  The latter woman has already announced that she is running in 2020, hoping to force a re-match with the Congressman.  Mr. Ashford, also a former state legislator, served one term in the House before he was unseated during the last presidential election.

NJ-11:   Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he believes his wife, Mary Pat Christie, would make an excellent challenger to freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-Montclair/Morristown).  Ms. Sherrill is one of the more successful Democratic freshmen and will not be an easy target despite NJ-11 previously being a Republican district.  For her part, Mrs. Christie has yet to make any public statement about possibly running for Congress.

NM-2:  An early 2020 political survey finds 2018 GOP congressional nominee Yvette Herrell (R) jumping out to a large 51-38% lead over freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces).  The Strategy Group Company conducted the poll (1/23-27; 1,070 NM-2 likely voters; 537 likely Republican primary voters), but the general election result appears unrealistic. Having access only to the ballot test and not the underlying numbers, it is difficult to believe a freshman House member who just defeated Ms. Herrell 51-49% in November would already be falling 13 percentage points behind.

In the Republican primary, Ms. Herrell, an ex-state Representative, leads former Secretary of State candidate Gavin Clarkson, energy company executive Claire Chase, and former Fresno, CA City Councilman Chris Mathys, 50-7-4-2%.  Since Ms. Herrell is the most recent former Republican nominee in this district, her being this far ahead in the GOP primary is believable. New Mexico's 2nd District will again be a battleground race in 2020.

NY-11:  As expected, state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Brooklyn/Staten Island) announced that she will challenge freshman Rep. Max Rose (D-Staten Island) next year.  Mr. Rose unseated Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island) in November on a 52-46% count.

Ms. Malliotakis is reportedly the National Republican Congressional Committee's first choice to run against Rep. Rose, but first she will likely tangle with former Congressman Michael Grimm in the Republican primary.  Mr. Grimm says he intends to run again.  After returning from serving his prison sentence for tax evasion, he challenged Rep. Donovan and lost the primary in a 63-37% landslide.

NC-9:  Gov. Roy Cooper (D) finally appointed five members to the State Elections Board, and now the new panel is about to begin considering the suspended 9th Congressional District contest that still remains without a certified winner.  The three Democrats and two Republicans who now comprise the State Board of Elections panel were chosen from a group put forth by leaders from both major parties.

The NCSEB will meet on February 18th to hold a hearing about the NC-9 result that has been halted due to voter fraud allegations.  The seat remains vacant in the new House of Representatives.  The most likely solution is to schedule a new election.

PA-12:  Significant speculation was occurring that former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton), defeated in the 2018 Pennsylvania US Senate race, might attempt a congressional comeback by entering the special election to replace resigned Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport).  Mr. Barletta's previous 11th District contained about 11% of the new 12th District's constituency.

Over the weekend, Mr. Barletta ended such talk by announcing that he would not become a candidate in the soon-to-be-scheduled special Republican convention that will choose a nominee for the May 21st special election. In the race are GOP state Reps. Fred Keller and Jeff Wheeland.  College professor Marc Friedenberg is the lone announced Democrat.  The Republicans are favored to retain the district.  President Trump carried the seat with a 66-30% margin in 2016.

Governor

Mississippi:  The Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy organization conducted a statewide poll of the ensuing open Governor's race (1/30-2/1; 625 MS registered voters) and find Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood leading GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves by a 44-42% margin suggesting a hotly contested race for the fall.  AG Hood, elected four times to his current position, is one of the most successful Democrats in the entire Deep South.  Since M-D began polling this race in December of 2017, Mr. Reeves has closed the gap by a net four percentage points.

Utah:  The Hinckley Institute for Politics at the University of Utah and the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper conducted a statewide survey of Republican voters to test the candidates vying to succeed retiring Gov. Gary Herbert (R).  The poll (1/15-24; 311 UT registered GOP voters) projects Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox barely leading former Rep. Jason Chaffetz.  The results find Cox holding only a 28-27% lead over Mr. Chaffetz.  Following is Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) with 10%, and Attorney General Sean Reyes, and ex-state House Speaker Greg Hughes trailing with 4% apiece.

 

West Virginia:  Gov. Jim Justice, who was elected in 2016 as a Democrat but has since changed parties, looks to be facing his first Republican primary.  Former state Delegate Mike Folk (R-Berkeley County) announced that he will challenge the Governor in next year's Republican primary.  Because Mr. Justice has never run on the Republican ballot, he could potentially become vulnerable in a GOP primary.  Whether Mr. Folk has the political wherewithal to upset Gov. Justice or becomes a stalking horse for another candidate is a subject of conjecture.


February 1, 2019
Pennsylvania 12th District Special Election Scheduled and Presidential Candidate Status Announcements Highlight Week
by Jim Ellis

 

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and former MA Gov. William Weld (R) in; former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Mayor Eric Garcetti (D-Los Angeles) out              
  • GA-Sen:  Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial nominee and potential challenger to Sen. David Perdue (R) to give Democratic SOTU response                 
  • PA-12: May 21st special election date set to fill Rep. Tom Marino (R) vacancy
  • KY-Gov: Candidates file for 2019 election

President
 
Joe Biden:  Leading in all national polling for both the Democratic nomination and against President Trump, Ex-VP Joe Biden says he is getting closer to making a decision about running but will still ultimately decide whether to launch a new national campaign in the very near future.
 
Cory Booker:  Early news stories are reporting that New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is informing colleagues that he will formally announce his presidential campaign.
 
Jeff Flake:  Former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), now a CBS News commentator, publicly confirmed that he will not be running for President next year.  Speculation previously occurred that he was testing the waters toward challenging President Trump for the GOP nomination.
 
Eric Garcetti:  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has decided that he will not enter the Democratic presidential foray. It is still likely we will see Democratic candidates numbering well into double-digits, but the actual number of active candidates may end up being closer to 18-20 rather than 23-25.
 
Howard Schultz:  Starbucks former CEO Howard Schultz publicly clarified his presidential status.  He confirms considering becoming a candidate, but, if he moves forward, it will be as an Independent because of his increasing disgust with the two major political parties.
 
Jill Stein:  Green Party 2016 and '12 presidential nominee Jill Stein, who successfully requested post-election recounts of the close Great Lakes States until it became obvious that no major counting errors were present in the last election, announced that she will not become a candidate in 2020.  She received just 1.1% of the national popular vote in 2016, and 0.4% in 2012.
 
Eric Swalwell:  California Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) continues to say he is considering entering the presidential contest.  Though a minor candidate who would not be a serious threat to win the Democratic nomination, Mr. Swalwell did offer a newsworthy comment.  While he could run both for President and his House seat should his national nomination quest be unsuccessful, the Congressman said he would not seek re-election to the House if he ultimately becomes a presidential candidate.
 
William Weld:  Former Massachusetts Governor and ex-Libertarian Party Vice Presidential nominee Bill Weld indicated that he is planning on becoming a Republican nomination opponent to President Trump and will make an official declaration announcement on February 15th.  He refused to extrapolate any further in order to avoid "spoiling" his address.

 

Senate
 
Colorado:  Former state Senator Mike Johnston (D), who finished third in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary with 23.5% of the vote, announced that he will enter the US Senate primary field next year.  The winner claims the opportunity of challenging Sen. Cory Gardner (R) in the general election.  Mr. Johnston joins former state House Speaker and congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff and two minor candidates at this point in the Democratic primary.
 
Democrats still hope to convince former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) to run, but he appears intent on entering the presidential campaign in March.
 
Georgia:  In a further effort to recruit former gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams into the race to challenge Sen. David Perdue (R) next year, the party brass at the behest of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), invited her to present the national Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union Address.  Ms. Abrams continues to maintain that she will make a decision about whether to undertake a Senate campaign sometime in March.
 
New Hampshire:  Any doubt that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) would seek a third term has now been dispelled.  Yesterday, Sen. Shaheen announced that she will stand for re-election in 2020.  Because New Hampshire is the quintessential swing state, the race must be viewed as competitive even though no GOP competitor has yet come forward to declare a challenge.
 
North Carolina:  Early this week, state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Beaufort) announced that she will enter the Democratic US Senate primary in hopes of winning the opportunity of challenging Sen. Thom Tillis (R).  Already in the race is Mecklenburg County Commissioner at-large Trevor Fuller (D).  State Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte) is also expected to soon enter.  So far, however, no statewide official has indicated a preference to enter the Senate race.  The North Carolina contest is viewed as highly competitive heading into 2020.
 
Texas:  A newly released Atlantic Media & Research survey conducted earlier in January (for Courageous Conservatives PAC; 1/5-11; 504 TX registered voters) finds Sen. John Cornyn (R) posting healthy re-election numbers when tested against former US Representative and 2018 US Senate nominee Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso), though the sample appears to have a right-of-center skew.  According to the results, Sen. Cornyn would lead Mr. O'Rourke, 50-37%, which seems a bit of a stretch considering the latter man's close finish with Sen. Ted Cruz (R) last November. Additionally, O'Rourke's favorability numbers (28:44% positive to negative) are not consistent with other post-election polling.
 
Utah:  Salt Lake County Councilor Jenny Wilson (D) challenged Sen. Mitt Romney (R) for Utah's open US Senate seat last November, and fell to him, 31-63%.  But she now has a new political position, nonetheless.  The Salt Lake County Democratic leadership has appointed her as the local Mayor to replace Ben McAdams (D), who was elected to Congress.  Because the Democrats previously controlled the vacant position, state succession law allows the party leaders to name a replacement.  Mayor Wilson will be able to run for a full term as Salt Lake County's chief executive in 2020.

 

House
 
GA-6:  Two weeks ago, state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) filed a federal campaign committee presumably to become a congressional candidate, opposing freshman US Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta).  During the middle of last week, defeated Rep. Karen Handel (R-Roswell) indicated that she is seriously considering seeking a re-match with the new Congresswoman who outpaced her in November by less than a percentage point.
 
Earlier, former state Sen. Judson Hill (R), a former congressional candidate, again acknowledged himself as a potential contender.  Additionally, Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann and Alpharetta City Councilman Ben Burnett are also reported as potential GOP candidates.  With this much action so early in the new election cycle, it is clear that this formerly Republican district will be a major GOP conversion target next year.
 
GA-7:   In November, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) and former state Senate committee staff director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) battled to the closest vote spread in the country, a 419-ballot difference tipped in the Congressman's favor.  So far, 2018 candidate David Kim and Democratic activist and attorney Marqus Cole have come forward to publicly express interest in running, and now the Atlanta Journal Constitution issued a story saying that Ms. Bourdeaux is eyeing a political comeback.  It is evident that in the coming election, Rep. Woodall will take his 2020 challenger more seriously than he did in the early part of the previous election cycle.
 
MO-1:  With the most liberal Democratic faction already saying they want to force 2020 primary challenges against veteran party office holders, at least one more looks to be a certainty. Nurse Cori Bush, who fell to Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay (D-St. Louis) by a 57-37% count last August, says that she will run again in 2020. Ms. Bush spent just under $150,000 for her primary battle against Rep. Clay, but her chances of attracting greater resources for the next campaign appear enhanced.
 
NV-4:  Nevada former state Assemblyman Jim Marchant (R) has filed a 2020 congressional political committee with the Federal Election Commission, signaling he is preparing to challenge Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) next year. Mr. Horsford was first elected in 2012 but defeated for re-election two years later by Republican Cresent Hardy, who Democrat Ruben Kihuen then unseated in 2016.  In the 2018 open seat, Mr. Horsford returned to the House, this time defeating Mr. Hardy when Rep. Kihuen declined to seek re-election due to sexual harassment allegations.
 
NY-2:   Political action among Democrats and Republicans looks to be stirring on the South Shore of Long Island. 2018 Democratic nominee Liuba Grechen Shirley, who lost to Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford/Babylon), 52-46%, is reportedly considering running again next year.  But rumors are beginning to surface that suggest Rep. King, who will be 76 years old before the next election, is considering retirement from Congress.  If so, a prime candidate to replace him would be his daughter, Hempstead Town Councilmember Erin King Sweeney (R).  As an open seat, the 2nd District would become highly competitive.
 
NY-11:  Freshman New York Rep. Max Rose (D-Staten Island) unseated Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island) in November scoring an upset victory.  We can be assured of a very active 2020 political contest in this district.  Former Representative Michael Grimm (R) has already indicated that he will run again.  During the week, state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) filed a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, suggesting that a multi-candidate Republican primary is a likelihood.
 
PA-12:  Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) just resigned from the House, and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has called the special election to fill the vacancy for May 21st, concurrent with the state's municipal primary.  Each political party will now meet in convention to choose a special election nominee.  Those selected will face each other in a plurality election, with the winner serving the balance of the current term.  Republicans will be favored to hold what should be a safe GOP district.
 
Governor
 

Kentucky: Gov. Matt Bevin (R), working to overcome poor approval ratings as he heads into a 2019 re-election campaign, has now officially filed for re-election. But Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton will not be Gov. Bevin's choice to continue in her current position should he win re-election. His new running mate is state Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester).
 
Now that the 2019 candidate filing deadline has passed, we know that US Rep. James Comer (R-Tompkinsville), who lost the 2015 statewide Republican gubernatorial primary to Mr. Bevin by just 83 votes and had been openly contemplating running for Governor again, will not be a gubernatorial candidate.
 
Gov. Bevin will face state Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) and two minor candidates in the Republican primary while Attorney General Andy Beshear, former state Auditor Adam Edelen, state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook), and economist Geoff Young comprise the field of candidates doing battle for the Democratic nomination. The Kentucky primary is set for May 21st. The state does not utilize a run-off system. This year's general election is scheduled for November 5th.
 
Louisiana: A new LJR Custom Strategies survey conducted for the Education Reform Now advocacy group (1/14-27; 600 LA likely voters), a supporter of Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), finds the first-term state chief executive way ahead of his two current prospective Republican opponents.
 
According to the LJR results, Gov. Edwards leads Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe) and land developer Eddie Rispone (R), 45-17-4%, if the state's jungle primary were held in the present time frame. But this respondent group consisted of 53% self-identified Democrats, 34% Republicans, and 13% unaffiliateds. Typically, the Louisiana electorate has a much different complexion. On the other hand, a December poll from Remington Research conducted for Rep. Abraham found that he and Gov. Edwards would tie at 44% apiece if the two advanced into the general election, providing a distinct example of early polling disparity.
 
North Carolina: To no one's surprise, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) has filed a gubernatorial exploratory committee to gauge his victory chances in challenging Gov. Roy Cooper (D). It has always been expected that Mr. Forest would run for the state's top office.


January 25, 2019
Primary Challenges Begin To Emerge
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-South Bend, IN) announce; Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) out           
  • Michigan: 2018 Senate nominee John James (R) interested in running again           
  • GA-6:  defeated Rep. Karen Handel (R) signals re-match with Rep. Lucy McBath (D)                      
  • HI-2: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) faces Dem primary challenge from State Sen. Kai Kahele 
  • IL-3: 2018 primary challenger and Marie Newman likely to return for Democratic primary rematch against Rep. Dan Lipinski (D)
  • NH: Gov. Chris Sununu (R) already draws 2020 challenge from Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky (D)

President

Mayor Pete Buttigieg:  South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee this week - quite a jump from being a small city mayor all the way to running for President.  At this point, Mr. Buttigieg must be viewed as a minor candidate, but with millennial and LGBTQ constituencies serving as a potential political base, the South Bend Mayor could have access to both a financial and voter base.

Sen. Kamala Harris:  As expected, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her candidacy for President but did not do so at a Martin Luther King Day rally in her birthplace city of Oakland as originally planned.  Instead, she made her declaration during an interview on ABC News' Good Morning America, followed by a speech at Howard University in Washington, DC. Regardless of her announcement venue, Sen. Harris is now an official presidential candidate.

John Hickenlooper:  Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, out of office for less than a month after serving two terms, says he will decide by March about whether to enter the presidential campaign.  Mr. Hickenlooper has been on the fringes of the national campaign for months and may find himself dropping hopelessly behind if he doesn't begin to take action very soon.

Sen. Chris Murphy:  Though Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy has never indicated that he would become a presidential candidate in 2020, his name often surfaced as an individual looking to make a run for the national office.  Yesterday, Sen. Murphy addressed the rumors and stated flatly that he will not be a candidate for President next year, saying that he will continue to fulfill the duties of his current office.

PPP National Polls:  The Public Policy Polling firm conducted a nationwide political survey (1/19-21; 760 US registered voters), testing President Trump against seven potential Democratic opponents.  The poll clearly skews left and finds the President trailing all, suggesting that his dip in popularity would be very serious if he were directly heading into an election.  On the plus side for him, the Trump standing isn't much worse than his previous polling status versus Hillary Clinton, meaning he still retains his strong base.

Former Vice President Joe Biden fares best, topping Mr. Trump, 53-41%.  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) would beat him 51-41% if the election occurred during the PPP polling period.  The other candidates, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), all lead between five and seven points.

Senate

Alabama:  Conventional political wisdom suggests that the Alabama Republican Senatorial primary will be a crowded affair with the winner having a strong chance of unseating Sen. Doug Jones (D), who won the 2017 controversial special election.  Yesterday, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), always believed to be a near-sure Senatorial candidate, indicated he would make his 2020 decision known in the next few weeks.  All signals suggest that the Congressman will enter the race.

Michigan:  Manufacturing company owner and retired Army Ranger John James (R), who did much better in a losing effort against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (52-46%) than originally projected even in a bad year for Michigan Republicans, may challenge Sen. Gary Peters (D) next year. Mr. James confirms he is interested in again seeking political office, and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Todd Young (R-IN) continues to sing Mr. James' praises as a viable candidate.

Should he run in 2020, Mr. James' campaign effort will be taken much more seriously, but the political road ahead will remain rocky despite Sen. Peters rather tepid job approval ratio (33:28%; according to the Morning Consult national polling organization in their pre-election survey of all 100 Senators).

House

GA-6:  First-term Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) scored a close 50-49% upset victory over Rep. Karen Handel (R-Roswell) in November.  Therefore, it is clear that she will be a major GOP conversion target in 2020.  Already, two potential Republican opponents are signaling that they will be candidates in 2020.

Former Rep. Karen Handel (R-Roswell), who won the most expensive race in history in a 2017 special election but lost the regular vote to Ms. McBath by less than a percentage point, says she is seriously considering running again in 2020.  State Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) also took action just before the holiday weekend break. He filed a fundraising committee with the Federal Election Commission.

GA-7:  Georgia's 7th District race produced the closest raw vote margin in the country, a spread of just 419 votes between veteran Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) and former state Senate committee staff director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D).  We have not heard whether Ms. Bourdeaux will make another run in 2020, but if she does, the former nominee will not have a free ride in the Democratic primary.  Yesterday, attorney and Democratic activist Marqus Cole announced that he plans to file for the 7th CD party nomination next year.

HI-2:  Soon after announcing that she plans to run for President, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) has drawn a serious Democratic challenger for her congressional seat. State Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo) announced that he will run for the 2nd District House seat whether or not Ms. Gabbard seeks re-election in 2020.  Under Hawaii law, an individual can simultaneously run for President and another office. This potential contest could well become a serious political challenge.

IL-3:  In a strong March 2018 Democratic primary challenge, media consultant Marie Newman came within two percentage points of denying veteran Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/ Chicago Suburbs) re-nomination.  According to a public statement made late this week, it appears highly likely that Ms. Newman will return for a re-match with the eight-term Congressman early next year.

IA-1:  The eastern Iowa congressional district that is usually friendly to Democrats but had a Republican Representative for the previous two terms figures to be another battleground region in 2020. Freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) defeated Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) 51-46% last November. Now, state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion/Cedar Rapids) confirms she is considering the race and expects to soon make a decision.  Reports coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee suggests that leadership believes Ms. Hinson will become a strong challenger candidate.

IA-4:  Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron/Sioux City) has been under heavy media attack over racial comments for the past two weeks, and a new poll has shown the controversy has hurt him. Winning re-election by just a 50-47% margin in what is normally a safe Republican district, 2018 Democratic nominee JD Scholten would already lead the Congressman according to a new poll just released.

The Insight 20/20 organization, polling for the Majority Rules Political Action Committee (1/16-17; 472 IA-4 registered voters), finds Rep. King trailing Mr. Scholten, 39-44%.  Already, state Sen. Kurt Feenstra (R-Hull) has announced his primary challenge to Rep. King. Both Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) and the official Iowa Republican Party committee leadership have said they will not support Rep. King for re-election.

NC-9:  A North Carolina Superior Court judge denied Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris' legal move to be declared the winner of the disputed 9th District election. The presiding jurist indicated that the state Board of Elections is investigating the voter fraud allegations and that declaring either candidate a winner would be premature.  The investigation has dragged on since Election Day.  A new state Board of Elections will be in place beginning in February.  The most probable result is calling for a new election.

TX-10:  Democratic attorney Mike Siegel, who held Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin) to a 51-47% re-election victory, says he will again seek the 2020 Democratic nomination in preparation for a re-match with the seven-term Congressman and former Homeland Security Committee chairman.  The 2018 race was surprisingly close, and Siegel can again expect a big vote coming from the Travis County (Austin) part of the district.

Governor

Kentucky:  Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who attracted national political attention in her unsuccessful 2014 US Senate race against then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), was another potential candidate said to be considering challenging Gov. Matt Bevin (R) later this year.  This week, however, Ms. Grimes indicated that she will not become a candidate for Governor or any other office in 2019.  She is ineligible to seek re-election to a third term as Secretary of State.

Montana:  Attorney General Tim Fox (R), who for several years was the state's lone Republican office holder, late this week announced as expected that he will run for Governor next year.  With incumbent Gov. Steve Bullock (D) ineligible to seek a third term and seriously considering entering the presidential campaign realm, the door is wide open for Mr. Fox to make a strong bid to attain the Governor's office.

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton (R) is already running for Governor, so AG Fox will face significant primary opposition.  Democrats will attempt to field strong candidates both for Governor and to challenge Sen. Steve Daines (R) as the latter man seeks re-election for the first time.  Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney waits in the wings as the leading potential Democratic statewide candidate.

New Hampshire:  Being one of two states that limit their gubernatorial terms to only two years - neighboring Vermont is the other - New Hampshire state chief executives are always running. Late this week, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) drew his first major Democratic challenger.

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky (D), a strong Bernie Sanders backer in 2016, told supporters through an email message that he will enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary in hopes of winning the opportunity to challenge the two-term Republican Governor.  As always in New Hampshire, the statewide race has the potential of being decided by just a few votes.  In November, Gov. Sununu was re-elected with a closer-than-expected 53-46% margin.


January 18, 2019
Candidate Announcements Continue
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI-2) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to form exploratory committees                 
  • North Carolina: Sen. Thom Tillis (R) draws first opponent - Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller (D)                    
  • West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) considers run for Governor in 2020                      
  • CA-52: Rep. Scott Peters (D) won't run for San Diego Mayor
  • PA-12: Rep. Tom Marino (R) to resign on January 23 to take job in private sector
  • ND-Gov: Ex-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) to Join CNBC making potential campaign for Governor highly unlikely

President

Julian Castro:  As expected, former Housing & Urban Development secretary Julian Castro (D) made his campaign for President official by announcing for the office in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, a place where he won his only elective office as Mayor.  Mr. Castro's brother, Joaquin Castro, represents part of the city in the US House. Mr. Castro is a long shot for the Democratic nomination who hopes to rally a constituency around the immigration issue.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:  In a CNN interview, four-term Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Kailua) said that she will formally announce her campaign for President.  Ms. Gabbard was first elected to the House in 2012 after serving in the Hawaii state House of Representatives and on the Honolulu City Council.  She did not seek re-election after one term in the state legislature in order to serve in Iraq with her Hawaii National Guard unit.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand:  Yet another presidential exploratory committee has been announced. On the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as expected, said that she is forming a committee to study her chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination, and eventually the White House.  She becomes the seventh significant Democrat to either file an exploratory committee or officially announce or schedule a declaration of their national candidacy.

Rep. Seth Moulton:  Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) became the focal point leader of the opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi once the Democrats captured the majority in the 2018 election.  Though Mr. Moulton voted for Speaker Pelosi in the House roll call, his future opportunities in the chamber are not expected to be particularly plentiful.

Reports coming from New England indicate that the Congressman is scheduling meetings in neighboring New Hampshire, suggesting that he, too, may now be thinking about testing the waters for a presidential run.  Rep. Moulton has also been mentioned as a potential Democratic primary opponent to Sen. Ed Markey, but such a move doesn't appear to have any political legs at this time.

Senate

North Carolina: In what is expected to be a crowded political card lining up against first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R), the first notable Democratic challenger indicated that he will run. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller told the local Charlotte Observer newspaper that he will be a Senatorial candidate in 2020.  State Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Charlotte) is also expected to enter the race in relatively short order.

Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam leaves office this weekend, and speculation is continuing as to whether he will become a 2020 US Senate candidate to replace the retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R).  Gov. Haslam reiterated that he is considering running and says he will make up his mind in "a month or so" after leaving office.  No other Republican has yet to come forward to declare for the open seat, obviously waiting to see what Gov. Haslam intends.

Attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler, who quickly raised $1 million for the 2018 open Senate campaign but withdrew when former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) declared his candidacy, is the only Democrat so far to officially enter the 2020 contest.

West Virginia:  Sen. Joe Manchin (D) making comments that he might run for Governor in 2020 has GOP leaders watching with interest.  Should he run and defeat GOP Gov. Jim Justice, a special election would be called to fill the balance of Manchin's Senate term as opposed to the Governor filling the vacant seat via appointment.  The law does allow a short-term appointment until the special is held, but the election would quickly follow the vacancy becoming official and would be conducted in mid-2021.  Republicans would be favored in an open Senate special election without Mr. Manchin on the ballot.

House

AZ-1:  Late this week, former Flagstaff City Councilmember Eva Putsova announced that she will oppose two-term Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Sedona) in the 2020 Democratic primary.  Ms. Putsova, a native of Slovenia, was a member of the local council for one four-year term that ended in 2018.   Her challenge to the moderate House member will be from his ideological left.

CA-52:  After filing an exploratory committee before Christmas to study his chances of winning the upcoming 2020 San Diego Mayor's race, Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego), a former SD City Council President, has abandoned further plans to return to local government.  Facing a crowded field in the 2020 jungle primary to succeed term-limited Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), and a race that would require him to risk his congressional seat, Rep. Peters has instead announced that he will seek a fifth term in the US House next year.

CO-4:  US Rep. Ken Buck (R-Windsor/Greeley) confirms that he is running to become chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.  It has been a Colorado tradition that the state party chairman does not serve in an elected office, but reports indicate that Mr. Buck would eschew such a practice if he were to win the post at the state Republican convention on March 30th in order to continue serving in Congress.

NV-4:  Former US Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), who retired after one term, announced that he will now run for a seat on the Las Vegas City Council.  Earlier he filed an exploratory committee to assess his chances, and obviously the initial research indicates his chances of winning are enough to launch an official political effort. Before winning his congressional seat in 2016, Mr. Kihuen served in the Nevada state Senate and Assembly.

NH-1:  New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District has defeated more incumbent House members than any CD in the United States since 2006.  In an open seat situation last year, NH Executive Councilor Chris Pappas (D) defeated former police chief Eddie Edwards (R) by a healthy 54-45% margin.  But, considering the competitive history of this district, one can never fully predict what the voters here will do.  Mr. Edwards confirms he is considering running again next year. Republican Party leaders, however, may prefer to look in a different direction because the 2018 nominee under-performed in terms of attracting votes and fundraising.

NC-3:  With North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) confirming that he will not seek a 14th congressional term next year, the GOP open seat candidate field is already starting to develop.  Both 2018 Republican candidates Phil Law, an Iraq War veteran, and Craven County Commissioner Scott Dacey confirm they are likely to run again in 2020.  In the May '18 Republican primary, Mr. Jones won re-nomination with a 43-29-28% win over Messrs. Law and Dacey.

PA-12:  Yesterday, five-term Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) announced that he is going to resign from the House on January 23rd to accept a position in the private sector. The 12th District is safely Republican, and the vacancy means a special election will be called likely to coincide with the state's municipal election primary on May 21st. Republicans will be favored to hold the seat, which is the third best Republican district in Pennsylvania and the 41st most pro-Trump CD in the country.  President Trump carried PA-12 with a 66-30% margin in 2016.

SC-1:  In what will likely be the first of many Republican campaign announcements against freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-Charleston), Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert (R) became the initial person to become an official candidate with his public declaration this week. Also expected to run is 2018 GOP nominee Katie Arrington, a former state Representative who lost to Mr. Cunningham, 51-49%, in a major upset result.  Former Congressman and ex-Governor Mark Sanford, who lost to Arrington in last year's Republican primary, remains noncommittal about his future political plans.  This race will be considered a pure toss-up.

Governor

Kentucky:  With the January 29th candidate filing deadline fast approaching for the 2019 Kentucky Governor's campaign, a great deal of political attention is being paid to the state. Last week, US Rep. James Comer (R-Tompkinsville), who lost to current Gov. Matt Bevin (R) by just 83 votes in the 2015 Republican primary, said he would have interest in running for Governor if the incumbent decided not to run.

Since then, Gov. Bevin has made it clear that he intends to seek re-election, and now Rep. Comer appears to be changing his tune.  This week, the Congressman said that he may consider challenging the Governor now that he fully understands the precarious political position encompassing Mr. Bevin. State Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) has already announced his Republican primary challenge to the Governor.  The Democratic field features Attorney General Andy Beshear, former state Auditor Adam Edelin, and state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook).

Louisiana:  The latest Louisiana Governor's campaign news features former US Rep. John Fleming (R) indicating that he is also considering entering the 2019 Governor's race in order to challenge Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards.  Dr. Fleming served four terms in the House, leaving in 2016 to run unsuccessfully for the Senate.  He finished fifth in a field of 24 jungle primary candidates, failing to advance into the general election.  Then-state Treasurer John Kennedy (R) eventually claimed the seat in the run-off election.  Currently, Dr. Fleming is an official in the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Gov. Edwards is seeking re-election.  His current challengers are US Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe) and land developer Eddie Rispone (R).  Both Sen. Kennedy and Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) declined to run.

New York:  The New York legislature, now that Democrats have assumed control of both legislative chambers, just passed a sweeping election procedure package.  The most significant change is the elimination of the two-tiered primary system.  The Empire State is the only one in the Union that holds a federal primary and a separate nomination vote for state offices.  Under this bill, the two would be unified as in all other states.  Additionally, an early voting option would be added to the New York voting procedure for the first time.  Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is expected to approve these election procedural changes.

North Dakota:  Earlier in the month, former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) was peppered with reporters' questions about whether she would challenge Gov. Doug Burgum (R) in the 2020 election.  While denying interest, she did indicate that an announcement would soon be forthcoming about her professional future.  This week, Ms. Heitkamp informed the North Dakota public that she has accepted a position with the CNBC Financial News Network as a regular contributor.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that she will return to North Dakota in order to challenge a first-term GOP Governor with high approval ratings.


January 11, 2019
Potential Candidates Making Decisions to Run...or Not

by Jim Ellis

 

Key Takeaways:

  • President:  Former Sec. Julian Castro forms exploratory committee
  • President:  Tom Steyer, billionaire former hedge fund manager, decides not to run                        
  • Kansas:  Sen. Pat Roberts (R) to retire                       
  • Tennessee:  Ex-Gov. Bill Haslam (R) considering run for Senate                      
  • House: SCOTUS claims jurisdiction over MD and NC gerrymandering cases
  • WV-Gov: Gov. Jim Justice (R) to seek re-election

President

 

Sen. Sherrod Brown:  Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), just winning a 53-47% re-election victory over now-former Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), indicated that he will decide whether to enter the presidential race within the next two months.  As many as ten Senators are either taking definitive steps toward entering the race or considering doing so.

 

Julian Castro:  Former Housing & Urban Development secretary Julian Castro has scheduled an announcement for Saturday, at which point he is expected to convert his presidential exploratory committee into a candidate committee.  Mr. Castro is a long shot for the party nomination.

 

Sen. Kamala Harris:  Reports are now suggesting that California Sen. Kamala Harris (D) is close to officially becoming a presidential candidate and will apparently bypass the exploratory phase.  It appears Sen. Harris will announce her national bid from her native Oakland, CA at a rally on the Martin Luther King birthday holiday, scheduled for January 21st, and not through social media as so many candidates are now doing.  Announcing now will provide her a full year of campaigning before early voting begins in the California primary on February 3, 2020.

 

Tom Steyer:  Earlier this week, billionaire former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer made his scheduled announcement from Iowa, but the message was different than expected.  Instead of launching a presidential exploratory committee, Mr. Steyer said he is not running for President "at this time," and chooses to devote his time and ample resources into building his organization that is attempting to rally grassroots support for President Trump's impeachment.

 

Senate

 

Georgia:  Speculation continues to grow about former state House Minority Leader and 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacy Abrams potentially challenging Sen. David Perdue (R) next year.  This week, Ms. Abrams again confirmed considering running for the Senate and said she will make a decision about whether to enter the race in late March.

 

David Perdue was first elected in 2014, defeating Democrat Michelle Nunn by a 53-45% margin.  Ms. Abrams lost a very close Governor's race to Republican Brian Kemp, a spread of just 54,723 votes from more than 3.94 million ballots cast.

 

Kansas:  Veteran Sunflower State Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced that he will not run for a fifth term in 2020.  The Senator, who will be 84 years of age at the next election, will have served a total of 40 years in Congress when combining his time in the Senate and House. He was originally elected to the western 1st Congressional District in 1980 and served eight terms, rising to become chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.  He is currently the Senate Agriculture Committee chair.

 

We are expecting to see multiple candidates vie for the Republican and Democratic nominations.  The 2020 election will be only the fifth open Kansas Senate race since 1968.

 

On the Republican side, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R), who was appointed to his position when Ron Estes was elected to Congress in 2017 and then won a 58% statewide election victory in November, became the first announced candidate.   Former Gov. Jeff Colyer, ex-Secretary of State and defeated gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, and Attorney General Derek Smith are all making early moves toward running or speaking favorably toward doing so. For the Democrats, ex-US Attorney Barry Grissom and Bernie Sanders campaign activist, and 2018 congressional candidate Brent Welder look like they are moving toward candidacy.

 

Those not looking toward running are US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former US Rep. Kevin Yoder.  Indicating they will make decisions later in the year are US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), American Conservative Union president Matt Schlapp, and Kansas Chamber of Commerce president Alan Cobb (R).

 

Maine:  Sen. Susan Collins (R), who was first elected in 1996, stopped short of formally announcing that she will seek a fifth term next year but did say she is "getting ready to run." She was last re-elected in 2014 with 67% of the vote, but a more highly competitive contest is expected in the coming election.  Six-term Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven/Portland) is a potential opponent.

 

Tennessee:  Iraq War veteran James Mackler (D), who quickly raised over $1 million for the 2018 Senate race before exiting in favor of former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), announced yesterday that he will enter the 2020 open seat contest to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R).  He is the first person from either party to declare his candidacy.

 

No Republican has yet stepped forward to become a candidate, probably because former Gov. Bill Haslam (R) made a statement last week confirming that he is at least considering running.  The move probably froze the potential GOP field, which is likely to remain in limbo until the popular two-term chief executive makes his political intentions public.

 

House

 

House:  In a signal that the US Supreme Court may be ready to issue definitive rulings about racial and political gerrymandering, the high panel announced that SCOTUS will assume jurisdiction over the Maryland political gerrymandering case that involves the state's 6th District and will hear the latest challenge to the North Carolina lines involving a further claim of racial discrimination.

 

Republicans are bringing the Maryland case, while Democrats are plaintiffs in the North Carolina litigation.  The Court is setting early hearing dates for these cases meaning that rulings will likely come before the end of June.

 

FL-8:  Dena Grayson, wife of former Congressman and ex-US Senate candidate Alan Grayson (D-Orlando), is launching her second run for the US House. In 2016, she lost the Democratic primary for her husband's former 9th District when he was running statewide.  Ms. Grayson announced that she will challenge Rep. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge) in the adjacent 8th CD, a much more Republican district (Trump '16: 58-38%), instead of again going after Democratic Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) in the more Democratic 9th District.  Rep. Posey will be heavily favored for re-election.

 

IA-4:  Largely due to controversial statements that Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron/ Sioux City) made early in the campaign, his 2018 victory margin dropped to 50-47% against a candidate who spent more than $3 million against him.  The result is more indicative of political weakness when seeing that this district carried Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds to statewide victory.

 

This week, state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) announced that he would challenge Rep. King in next year's Republican primary. Responding to the move, the Iowa Republican Party leadership yesterday made public their position that the party apparatus will remain neutral if this nomination contest actually materializes for June of 2020.  Normally, the party structure supports its incumbents.

 

NY-22:  Broome County District Attorney Stephen Cornwell (R) just announced that he will not seek re-election next year in order to pursue "other political opportunities."  The statement is widely interpreted to mean that the local DA plans to challenge freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica), who upended one-term Republican Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) by a small 50.1 - 48.3% margin of victory.  It is also possible that Ms. Tenney may seek a re-match, but it is evident from Mr. Cornwell's move that the former Congresswoman will face a battle for re-nomination should she again choose to enter the electoral fray.

 

Governor

 

Kentucky:  Though Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has twice stated he intends to seek re-election this year, speculation is rampant that he will not.  US Rep. James Comer (R-Tompkinsville), who lost the 2015 Republican gubernatorial primary to Mr. Bevin by just 83 votes of more than 214,000 ballots cast before he was elected to Congress in 2016, said he would not challenge Gov. Bevin if the Kentucky chief executive files for re-election but would run if the position comes open.

 

State Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) did formally announce his opposition to Gov. Bevin in this year's Republican primary, however. 

 

In a public comment, the Governor said he is going to going to seek re-election and hasn't filed his committee because he is undecided about his running mate.  In Kentucky, the Governor and Lt. Governor run as a ticket.  The state requires both names when filing for the office, and the deadline is January 29th.  This clearly brings into question whether he will retain Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton, but he promises a decision will soon be made.

 

Louisiana:  Originally, it appeared that Attorney General and former US Congressman Jeff Landry (R) was gearing up to run for Governor but instead opted to announce for re-election when it appeared that US Sen. John Kennedy (R) would challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards (D). When the Senator decided to remain where he is, rumors began surfacing that Mr. Landry was re-thinking his political plans.  This week, the Attorney General ended the speculation by announcing that he is continuing his campaign for re-election and will by-pass a run for Governor in 2019.

 

The gubernatorial field includes, at this point, only two announced contenders: US Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe) and real estate developer Eddie Rispone, but others still have plenty of time to enter the race.  Former Congressman and US Senate candidate Charles Boustany (R), state Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) are all potential gubernatorial candidates.

 

The Louisiana candidate filing deadline is not until August 8th for the October 12th statewide jungle primary and November 16th run-off election.

 

North Carolina:  Public Policy Polling just conducted a survey of North Carolina voters (1/4-7; 750 NC registered voters), providing Gov. Roy Cooper (D) with results of some early ballot test data.  According to the PPP results, Gov. Cooper is favorably positioned against his two potential principle opponents.

 

Isolating former Gov. Pat McCrory (R), the man he unseated in 2016, Gov. Cooper jumps out to a close 45-41% edge.  His advantage grows opposite GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.  In that ballot pairing, the Governor would lead 47-35%.  Mr. Cooper's favorability index is 44:35% positive to negative.  Before winning the Governor's office, Roy Cooper won four consecutive elections as state Attorney General.

 

West Virginia:  Late this week, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that he will seek re-election in 2020. Mr. Justice was first elected in 2016 as a Democrat, but publicly switched parties at one of President Trump's rallies.  It was thought that he might draw opposition in the Republican primary, and still may, but none has yet materialized.  Gov. Justice would begin as the favorite to win again next year.

 

January 4, 2019
Pelosi Elected as Speaker and Presidential Candidate Announcements Begin 2019
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President:  Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) form presidential exploratory committees
  • President: Ex-Gov Martin O'Malley (D-MD) confirms he will not be a 2020 presidential candidate                       
  • Senate: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) draws primary opponent - State Representative-elect Anne Stava-Murray                  
  • CA-50: Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) to run again after losing in 2018 to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R)                                    
  • NC-3: Rep. Walter Jones (R) confirms retirement in 2020
  • MS-Gov: Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) officially announces run for Governor

President

Jay Inslee:  Reports coming from Washington State indicate that Gov. Jay Inslee (D) will imminently announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee.  The Governor is working to construct a national finance team and develop a campaign platform that will center around climate change.  At this point, Mr. Inslee would be the first Governor to take a step toward officially joining the candidate mix, although Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) and outgoing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) are both contemplating becoming a national candidate.

Martin O'Malley:  Former Maryland Governor and 2016 presidential candidate Martin O'Malley (D) confirmed that he will not be running for the nation's top office in 2020 via a public statement made yesterday. Mr. O'Malley, however, urged former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) to enter the race saying that, "it's time for a new generation of leadership."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren:  The Massachusetts Senator kicked off 2019 with her announcement that she is forming a presidential exploratory committee. Early polling has found Sen. Warren dropping in support, coming in well behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT), and US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX). She fails to reach double-digit backing among surveyed Democrats so far in any poll.

Sen. Warren is kicking off the exploratory phase of her presidential campaign with a trip to Iowa, visiting four cities in the central and western part of the state.

Senate

Illinois:  State Representative-Elect Anne Stava-Murray (D), who will be sworn into office next week after unseating Republican state Rep. David Olsen, 51-49% in her western Chicago suburban district, has already announced plans to challenge US Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) in the 2020 statewide Democratic primary.

Ms. Stava-Murray ran as an anti-establishment, anti-political machine opponent to Democratic state House Speaker Mike Madigan, so we can expect the same type of outsider attacks to be launched against Sen. Durbin.  Her chances of denying the four-term Senate leader re-nomination are slim at best, however.

House

Speaker Pelosi:  California US Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), as expected, was elected Speaker of the 116th House of Representatives, winning 220 votes for the position. She escaped going to a second ballot by only two votes.  Fifteen members of her own party, including four who are not serving their first full term, voted for another individual.

Ms. Pelosi, the 52nd Speaker of the House, returns to the position she held from 2007 to 2011. This is the first time since 1955 that an individual has returned to the Speakership after exiting. She is the sixth person in US history to regain the Speaker's gavel after her party lost the majority.

CA-50:  Ammar Campa-Najjar (D), one of the few 2018 California Democratic congressional challengers who failed to win, announced that he will run again in the next cycle.  Back in November, he lost 54-46% to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine).

It's possible that Mr. Campa-Najjar won't have to wait until 2020. Rep. Hunter is scheduled for trial under a campaign finance indictment and will likely resign or be expelled if found guilty.  Therefore, we can expect much early political action coming from this San Diego County anchored seat.

NC-3:  During the re-election cycle, North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) said that the 2018 campaign would be his last. Through a spokesman when the new Congress convened, Mr. Jones confirmed that he will not seek a 14th term in 2020.  The Congressman was first elected in 1994 and will have served 26 years when the new term ends.

NC-9:  Only 434 certified voting members took their seats when the House was called to order this week.  Since the state of North Carolina still has not officially decided the 9th District race - and the eventual conclusion will likely be to call a new election - the House leadership had little choice but to declare the seat vacant.

The North Carolina Board of Elections is next scheduled to meet on January 11th.  At that time, the panel may order and schedule the new election that will probably be scheduled for late February or March. Voting irregularities in one county are the reason the Board refused to certify Republican Mark Harris as the winner.  Unofficially, Mr. Harris still leads businessman Dan McCready (D) by 905 votes.

PA-7:  Freshman Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild (D-Allentown) has been in office just one day but she has already drawn her first re-election opponent. Yesterday, former Lehigh County Commissioner Dean Browning (R), who barely lost the 2018 Republican primary to County Commissioner Marty Nothstein (318 vote margin from 32,164 ballots cast), announced that he will run again in 2020.

VA-7:  Former Rep. Dave Brat (R) is unlikely to seek a re-match with new Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D) in Virginia's 7th District.  Liberty University just announced that Mr. Brat will rejoin academia with his acceptance of their offer to run the institution's business school.  VA-7 is expected to be a top Republican conversion target in 2020, but the party will likely be fielding a fresh standard bearer.

Governor

Mississippi:  As expected, Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) officially announced that he will run for Governor in this year's election.  Two-term incumbent Phil Bryant (R) is ineligible to seek re-election.

The announcement likely sets up a competitive odd-year statewide campaign featuring Mr. Reeves and four-term Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.  At this point, both men have primary opposition, but neither faces major competition for their respective party nominations. The Mississippi candidate filing deadline is March 1st.  The party primaries are August 6th in preparation for the November 5th general election.

Montana:  Gov. Steve Bullock, a budding 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, is ineligible to seek a third term in his present position come the next election.  Yesterday, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, who ran for Governor in 2012 but was defeated in the Republican primary, announced that he will enter the open 2020 Governor's race.

Republican Attorney General Tim Fox (R) is also expected to run setting up a major primary between two statewide officials. Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney is expected to lead the statewide Democratic ticket in next year's campaign.

North Carolina:  Earlier this week, former Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who was defeated for re-election in 2016 by a tenth of a percentage point, says he will not become a congressional candidate.  He did confirm, however, that he is considering seeking a re-match with Gov. Roy Cooper (D) next year, or possibly running for US Senate in 2022 if incumbent Richard Burr (R) follows through with statements made in the 2016 campaign that he would not seek a fourth term when his seat next comes in-cycle.


December 21, 2018
Attention Turns to 2020 Election Cycle 
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President:  Democratic Party 2019/2020 plans feature a dozen candidate debates                            
  • Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) will retire                                   
  • ME-2: Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) will appeal federal court ruling in effort to strike down Maine's Ranked Choice Voting system
  • NC-9: 116th Congress will begin with NC-9 as a vacant seat pending a new election
  • KY-Gov: Gov. Matt Bevin (R) trails in first polling

President

Debates:  The Democratic National Committee has already announced their plan for the presidential debate series coming in 2019 and 2020.  The program will feature a dozen candidate debates, six in mid to late 2019, with the remaining forums to be scheduled before the key 2020 primaries.

Changing the Republicans' approach of 2016 where they divided a large candidate field by poll standing, relegating the weakest candidates to their own debate that quickly was coined a "junior varsity" assembly, DNC chairman Tom Perez said that the "double-header" term would be a better description of their format.  Each city hosting a debate will have programs on successive nights.  The fields will be determined through drawing lots to determine which candidates will appear on the first night, and who would participate on the second evening.

The 2019 debates will precede the early primaries and caucuses and could possibly include California because the state's early voting process will begin simultaneously with the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary.

South Carolina:  Though South Carolina hosts one of the first four nominating events within the presidential cycle, commonly known as the "First in the South" primary, the Republicans may not schedule a 2020 version.

Doing so would not be unprecedented.  The state Republican Party followed a similar course in 2004 to ensure that President George W. Bush had no impediment to obtaining unified support from the South Carolina delegation.  Because of President Trump's demonstrated strength in this state, party leaders are considering again following such a course.  In any event, the Democratic primary will definitely be held and likely scheduled for February 29th.

Pete Buttigieg:  South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) announced that he will not seek re-election to a third term and is expected to join the presidential campaign sometime early next year. Mr. Buttigieg, who is openly gay, will bank on strong support from the LGBT community and its allies as he builds a base within the Democratic Party.  Though officially mum about running for President, he is already heading to Iowa for speaking appearances this coming weekend.

Bernie Sanders:  The Democracy for Action organization surveyed what they claim are 94,000 self-identified progressives asking their preference for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.  As was the case in 2016, the most liberal faction of the Democratic Party is again lining up behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In this new survey, he captured 36% support.

Again falling far behind, as she has already done in other polls, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren attracts only 8%, falling to single digits even within a group where she should draw strong support.  In second position is former Vice President Joe Biden followed by Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX). The two captured 15 and 12%, respectively.

Senate

Colorado:  Sen. Cory Gardner (R), possibly the most vulnerable Republican Senator standing for election in 2020 because of his state's recent leftward electoral lurch, has drawn a second Democratic challenger. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff filed a 2020 US Senate campaign committee late last week, indicating that he intends to become a candidate. Previously, the executive director of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, Lorena Garcia, announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

Others, such as Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden), former state Treasurer and ex-gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy, and ex-state Senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston are all viewed as possible Democratic Senatorial candidates.

Iowa:  Democratic leaders nationally and in Iowa are making it clear that they would like to recruit former Governor and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (D) into the Senate race in order to challenge first-term incumbent Joni Ernst (R).  The former Governor and cabinet secretary, however, was vague when asked about his intentions.  As reported in many places, Mr. Vilsack responded that, "the door's not open, closed, shut. I don't even know where the door is." It appears apparent that Mr. Vilsack, who was last on the Iowa ballot in 2002, is less than committed to making another statewide run.

Kansas:  Sen. Pat Roberts (R), at 82 years of age and a clear retirement prospect particularly after a difficult 2014 re-election campaign, is already drawing a probable 2020 Democratic challenger.   Former US Attorney Barry Grissom (D) again reiterated that he is seriously considering entering the Senate campaign in the next cycle. Sen. Roberts has not yet committed to seeking re-election.

Tennessee:  Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) released a statement this week announcing that he does not intend to seek re-election to a fourth term in 2020. Prior to being elected in 2002, Mr. Alexander had served as US Education Secretary under President George H.W. Bush, and as Tennessee Governor for two terms.  He is the only person in Tennessee history who served as both Governor and US Senator.

The Senate opening will ignite a large field of candidates seeking the office, particularly on the Republican side.  Moves will soon be made, so this story will continue to develop.  The Tennessee nominating primaries won't be held until the first week of August in 2020.

House

CA-52:   Four-term Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) has officially formed an exploratory committee to test his viability in the open 2020 Mayor's race. Before being elected to Congress, Mr. Peters was President of the San Diego City Council.  The Congressman said he will decide about running for the city post in the "next few months."  He can expect major competition from both Republicans and Democrats as a number of strong candidates are expected to vie for the office. Incumbent Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

ME-2:  After losing his constitutional federal lawsuit to strike down Maine's instant run-off system, known as Ranked Choice Voting, Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) has ended the full recount he requested of last month's vote.  The recount process was about half complete, and no significant change was discovered.

Mr. Poliquin lost his initial attempt at overturning Maine's Ranked Choice Voting system in federal court but has now decided to appeal the lower court decision.  He argues that the RCV, which gives more votes to people whose original candidates finish in the second tier, is unconstitutional.  The Maine state Supreme Court has already ruled the system as unconstitutional for state races, but they have no jurisdiction over federal elections.

NE-2:  2018 Democratic nominee Kara Eastman, who held Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillon/Omaha) to a 51-49% victory margin, says she will run again in the next election cycle. Ms. Eastman upset former US Representative and ex-state Senator Brad Ashford (D-Omaha) in the 2018 Democratic primary to advance into the general election.

Though Mr. Ashford is an unlikely 2020 candidate, his wife, Ann Ferlic Ashford, confirms that she is seriously considering entering the race.  Should this occur, a re-match of sorts would be decided before the main rerun is even held. Nebraska's 2nd District is politically marginal, so we can expect this contest to again be competitive.

NM-2:  New Mexico state Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo) looks to be taking steps to seek a re-match against the woman who defeated her 51-49% in November, attorney and now Rep-Elect Xochitl Torres-Small (D).  Though Ms. Herrell is still considering filing a lawsuit over potential voting irregularities in Dona Ana County, she is "not ruling out" another congressional run in 2020.

Outgoing Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs), who just lost the Governor's race but was subsequently elected as the New Mexico Republican Party chairman, is also not closing the door on a second comeback for the seat he vacated to run statewide in both 2008 and 2018.

NC-9:  It is now a virtual certainty that North Carolina's 9th District will begin the new Congress as a vacant seat pending a new election.  The North Carolina State Board of Elections postponed their December 21st meeting to January 11th, meaning the issue of officially certifying Republican Mark Harris' apparent 905-vote victory will not be finally decided until almost two weeks after the new congressional session begins.

The meeting, however, is basically a formality.  All sides are calling for a new election, which will almost certainly be ordered at the next BoE meeting.   A new law is likely to be enacted that will open the impending special primary election to all individuals meaning Mr. Harris may not even be re-nominated.  The accusations of voter fraud surrounding his lead have severely damaged his image, therefore he would have a very difficult time winning the seat in the special. Republicans will likely move forward with a new candidate, while Democrats are almost certain to coalesce behind their 2018 nominee, businessman Dan McCready.

The special election will likely be scheduled sometime in March. A run-off will occur if a leading party primary candidate falls under 40%.

SC-1:  Late this week, Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert (R) confirmed that he is considering running for the 1st Congressional District seat that Democrat Joe Cunningham (D-Charleston) wrestled away from the Republicans last month.

State Rep. Katie Arrington (R), who lost to Cunningham after denying Rep. Mark Sanford (R-Charleston) re-nomination and was then involved in a serious automobile accident that landed her in the hospital for an extended stay, is likely to run again and Mr. Covert was already drawing a distinction between he and the 2018 nominee over the important off-shore oil drilling issue that was a large reason for Cunningham's upset victory. Additionally, Rep. Sanford has yet to confirm or deny any interest in running again.

TN-5:  Immediately quelling some very early retirement rumors, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) announced that he is definitely running for re-election in 2020.  Mr. Cooper was elected to the 5th District in 2002, when then-incumbent Bob Clement (D-Nashville) ran unsuccessfully for Senate.

Governor

Kentucky:  Another Democrat is soon expected to enter the campaign against first-term Gov. Matt Bevin (R).  Former state Auditor Adam Edelen has formed an exploratory committee.  If he moves forward, Mr. Edelen will join Attorney General Andy Beshear and state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook) as official candidates.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategies released the first Kentucky gubernatorial election poll for the coming cycle, and it does not provide Gov. Matt Bevin (R) with good news.  The poll was taken over the December 12-15 period, and interviewed 625 Kentucky likely gubernatorial campaign voters.

According to the results, Gov. Bevin would trail Attorney General Andy Beshear, 48-40%, and even falls one point behind state House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins (D-Sandy Hook), 42-41%.  Though many incumbents have rebounded from numbers such as these, it appears Mr. Bevin has his work cut out for him if he is to win a second term next year.

Louisiana:  Speculation is becoming rampant about the 2019 gubernatorial elections.  Two new names have surfaced as potential Louisiana candidates, former US Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Lafayette) and Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta (R).

The field began taking shape once US Sen. John Kennedy (R) announced that he would not challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) next year.  Currently in the race are US Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe) and GOP developer Eddie Rispone.  Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) is another potential candidate. Plenty of time for decisions remains, however.  The candidate filing deadline is not until August 8th for the October 12th jungle primary, followed by a November 16th run-off if no one obtains majority support.