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.


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

Senate

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

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

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


House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Governor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Senate

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

Governor

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

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

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

Governor

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


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

Senate

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

Governor 

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

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

House

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

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

Governor

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

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

Governor

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


September 27, 2017
Shifting Senate Dynamics and Governorship Races Heat Up
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

The special Alabama Senate Republican run-off election was held last night and appointed Sen. Luther Strange fell to former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore, 55-45%.  Judge Moore now advances to the December 12th special general election to face Birmingham former US Attorney Doug Jones who won the Democratic nomination in the August 15th primary.  The eventual winner will serve through the 2020 election, at which point he will be eligible to seek a full six-year term.  Judge Moore overcame a 4:1 spending disadvantage to easily out-distance the appointed incumbent.  The former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, who the Republican leadership vigorously opposed, won 63 of the state's 67 counties, losing only in the Birmingham and Huntsville areas along with Sumter County on the Mississippi border. 

Tennessee's Bob Corker (R) became the first 2018 in-cycle Senate incumbent to announce that he will not seek re-election.  While the Alabama voters were heading to the polls to select their special election Republican nominee, Sen. Corker was making public his decision to retire after two terms.  Mr. Corker said his commitment to a system of citizen legislators was a driver in choosing not to seek a third term.  He was already being opposed in the Republican primary against a challenger, American for Prosperity's Tennessee director Andy Ogles, who was drawing substantial early financial backing. 

With Sen. Corker now out of the picture, other Republicans are beginning to make moves.  A group is forming to encourage former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) to enter the race.  Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) says she is already considering becoming a Senate candidate.  Democrats are encouraging former Gov. Phil Bredesen to seek their party's nomination.  The fluid situation will become clearer in the succeeding weeks.

House

Maryland House Majority Leader Bill Frick (D-Bethesda), who had previously declared his candidacy for the open 6th Congressional District, has now reversed his personal political course.  Mr. Frick announced during the week that he will exit the congressional race and enter the open campaign for Montgomery County Executive.  The move leaves five Democratic candidates vying for the party nomination including three prominent contenders: Total Wine, Inc. founder David Trone, state Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County), and state Delegate Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery County). 

Republican National Committee chair Ronna Romney McDaniel this week made clear that she will not enter her hometown congressional campaign now that Michigan's 11th District is open.  Recently, two-term Rep. Dave Trott (R-Birmingham) announced that he will not seek re-election.  Already, four Republicans and two Democrats have entered the campaign.  The seat leans toward the GOP but will be competitive in the 2018 November election.

Republicans scored their top recruitment prospect in the open Washington 8th District, the seat seven-term Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) is vacating.  State Sen. Dino Rossi, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost a statewide election by just 129 votes in 2004, announced that he will run to succeed Mr. Reichert in the lean Republican district that begins in King County and stretches to almost the middle of the state.  The GOP is showing signs that they will unite behind Rossi, thus increasing their November victory chances.  King County Councilman Reagan Dunn (R), whose late mother, Jennifer Dunn, held the congressional seat for six terms, had previously indicated he would step back from launching a congressional campaign if Rossi were to make the race.  We can expect several Democrats to come forward.  This district will feature a competitive general election campaign.

Governor

A Fox News poll of the New Jersey electorate (9/17-19; 804 NJ registered voters) finds former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy (D) still leading Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) by a substantial margin.  This spread suggests a 42-29% margin.  With taxes being the number one issue of concern according to the poll, Guadagno is hitting her opponent hard over his statements that he will raise the state levies even higher.  Suffolk University also released their Garden State data (9/19-23; 500 NJ likely voters) that gives Mr. Murphy a 44-25% advantage.  The regular gubernatorial election is scheduled for November 7th.  Gov. Chris Christie (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

San Antonio US Rep. Joaquin Castro has been under pressure from fellow Democrats, including Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez, to challenge Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott (R).  But, the Congressman dashed all hopes this week that he will do so.  Mr. Castro instead announced his plans to seek a fourth term to his position in the US House.

Five new Virginia polls, all conducted during the September 12-23 period, were released during the past few days.  The survey margins between candidates Ralph Northam (D-Lt. Governor) and Ed Gillespie (R-former Republican National Committee chairman) range from the two being tied (Fox News; 42-42%) to Northam holding a six-point advantage (Christopher Newport University; 47-41%).  In all five polls, both candidates record support totals in the 40s.  The regular 2017 gubernatorial election is scheduled for November 7th.


September 20, 2017
Early Polling for 2020 Democratic Nominee and Last Push in Alabama Senate GOP Special Election
by Jim Ellis  

President 

Believe it or not, two 2020 presidential stories came to the forefront since our last report.  First, we have now seen the first 2020 presidential poll, from Zogby Analytics (released 9/12; 834 likely US voters; 356 likely Democratic presidential primary voters).  The survey tested nine potential Democratic national candidates and found Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leading the group with 28% support.  He tops former Vice President Joe Biden by eleven points, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew 12% support.  Those in single-digits were Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, New York Senator and Governor Kirsten Gillibrand and Andrew Cuomo, respectively.  Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe tied for last place with just 1% apiece.

Secondly, the California legislature is considering a bill to again move their presidential primary.  Golden State officials have been moving the primary from an early-cycle slot to a late one in the past few elections to find the best place for the most populous state to have the most influence in choosing presidential nominees.  In 2016, they returned to their traditional June primary date to possibly become the deciding factor, and that almost worked as both nomination battles were coming down to the end of the primary process.  But, many believe the state would be better positioned with a March primary.  Therefore, the legislature will soon vote on a bill to again re-position the California presidential nomination vote back to the earlier time slot.

Senate

As the special Alabama Senate Republican run-off election winds down to its final days, the two candidates, appointed Sen. Luther Strange and former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore, are moving full steam ahead.  Judge Moore leads in all polls, but the margin is tightening.  President Trump and Vice President Pence are making appearances in the state for Sen. Strange, and the NRA is spending more than $1 million on his behalf in a last minute media blitz.  The run-off election is scheduled for this Tuesday, September 26th.  The winner will face Birmingham former US Attorney Doug Jones in the December 12th special general election.  The eventual winner will serve through the 2020 election, at which point he will be eligible to seek a full six-year term.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) received some bad polling news during the past week.  A new GBA Strategies poll (8/30-9/7; 600 AZ likely general election voters; 500 AZ likely Republican primary voters) found the Senator falling much further behind his announced 2018 GOP primary opponent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward.  According to GBA, the ex-legislator would lead the incumbent by a whopping 51-38% in next year's Republican primary with the Senator scoring a terrible 34:58% job disapproval score.  In a hypothetical general election pairing with potential candidate Kyrsten Sinema, the three-term Phoenix area Congresswoman, Sen. Flake would trail, 40-47%. 

All signs indicate that 84-year old California Senator Dianne Feinstein will seek re-election next year.  She has been raising money at a steady clip, appears to be facing little to no opposition, and now freshman Sen. Kamala Harris (D) has just gone public with an endorsement of her Golden State Democratic colleague, saying she supports Sen. Feinstein's re-election, "100%."

A surprising new poll for the North Dakota Senate race was just released.  WPA Intelligence (9/10-11; 406 ND likely voters) surveyed the Peace Garden State electorate and found that state Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, heretofore not even mentioned as a possible candidate, actually leads first-term Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), 48-44%.  The Republicans' announced candidate, state Senator and entrepreneur Tom Campbell (R-Grafton/Grand Forks) was not tested

House

Three Republicans immediately stepped forward to declare their candidacies in what will be the open Detroit suburban 11th District of Michigan.  Last week, Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham) announced that he will not seek a third term.  Lena Epstein, a businesswoman who is President Trump's former Michigan co-chair, is switching from the Senate campaign into the open House race.  State Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Oakland County) also declared his candidacy, as did former state House Majority Leader and ex-US Senate candidate Rocky Raczkowski.  The eventual Republican nominee will have an edge heading into the general election. 

Reporters at television news station NY-1 report that former New York US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), recently released from prison after serving seven months for federal tax evasion, is likely to announce a primary challenge to the man who succeeded him, Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island), in early October.  Mr. Grimm has already been making public statements suggesting that Rep. Donovan is moving too far to the political center.  The former Congressman won't get Republican leadership support, but will likely try to secure the Conservative Party line in addition to running in the GOP primary.

Governor

Four new Virginia polls were released during the past few days.  The survey margins between candidates Ralph Northam (D-Lt. Governor) and Ed Gillespie (R-former Republican National Committee chairman) range from the two being tied all the way to the Democratic nominee leading by ten percentage points.  The two most reliable polls seem to be coming from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research (9/10-15; 625 VA registered voters) and the Princeton Survey Research Associates, International/University of Mary Washington (9/5-12; 1,000 VA adults; 867 VA registered voters; 562 VA likely voters).  M-D sees Mr. Northam holding a scant 44-43% lead, while Princeton finds the Democrat's advantage over Mr. Gillespie to be 44-39%.  We are now entering the final seven weeks of this race, to be decided November 7th.

 

September 13, 2017
Alabama GOP Runoff Polling and Governor Announcements in AL & HI  
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Several new Alabama Senate Republican run-off polls were released in the past few days, all of them bringing bad news for appointed Sen. Luther Strange as the campaign gets closer to the September 26th run-off election date.  Southeast Research (8/29-31; 401 AL likely GOP run-off voters) sees former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore continuing to lead.  In this particular instance, the advantage is 52-36%.  However, voters who identify as evangelicals may have been oversampled in this poll – 79% of respondents self-identified as evangelical, a segment of voters who tends to heavily favor Judge Moore. This oversampling may tip the results too far in Moore’s favor.

Two other polls both featuring potentially more representative statewide voting samples were also published.  Strategic National (9/6-7; 800 AL registered voters) finds Judge Moore leading 51-35%.  The Emerson College Polling Society (9/8-9; 416 AL registered voters) sees a 34-22% Moore advantage.  Therefore, even with the more representative samples, Sen. Strange continues to trail by double-digit deficits.

House

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) failed to qualify for the special US Senate run-off election, and now faces two credible Republican opponents for his congressional seat.  A new poll was just released from WT&S Consulting (8/28-31; 863 self-identified Republican respondents via live telephone interview).  The results find the Congressman attracting 56% followed by state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) at 22%, and businessman Clayton Hinchman trailing with five percent support.  Though finishing third in the statewide contest, Mr. Brooks placed first in the 5th District portion of the race (41%), and captured a majority vote in the district's dominant population center, Madison County.

Last week, Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) declared her Democratic primary challenge against Gov. David Ige.  This week, the Congresswoman confirmed that she will not resign her US House seat in order to campaign for the statewide post.  In 2010, then-Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Honolulu) left Congress mid-term to return to Hawaii full-time in order to concentrate on his political campaign.  The move worked, as Abercrombie was elected but the 1st District went to Republican Charles Djou in a jungle primary-style special election.  Ms. Hanabusa then won the regular term six months later.  The move not to resign secures the seat in the Democratic column for the remainder of the term, but may hamper her efforts to topple Gov. Ige since she will be forced to make the long trip back and forth to Washington.

In Michigan, two-term Rep. David Trott (R-Birmingham/Livonia) announced that he will not seek re-election, expressing a desire to return to the private sector.  Before coming to Congress, Mr. Trott built a highly successful real estate and foreclosure legal practice.  This is a "lean Republican" seat that will be in play next year.

Seven-term Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown), just shortly after state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg) announced a Republican primary challenge, also declared that he will not seek re-election next year.  We can expect vigorous primaries in both parties.  The general election will likely be competitive, but Republicans will have the edge.  President Trump carried the district 52-44% last November.

Washington Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn), also serving his seventh term, announced that he, too, will retire at the end of the current Congress.  The Evergreen State's 8th District is politically marginal, so we can be assured this open seat will be a top Democratic conversion target.  Republicans have two potentially strong candidates waiting in the wings, however, former gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi and King County Councilman Reagan Dunn.  The latter is the son of the late former Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-WA).  This open race will be considered a toss-up.

Governor 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that she will seek a full term in office next year.  Her candidacy creates a nine-way Republican primary.  Gov. Ivey, elected as Lt. Gov. in 2014, ascended to the Governorship when incumbent Robert Bentley (R) resigned as part of a plea bargain agreement over state campaign finance charges.  Prominent Republicans already in the race include state Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile).

As long expected, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R), a former US Congressman, officially announced that he will enter the open gubernatorial race.  He is expected to face Lt. Gov. Brian Calley in the Republican primary.  Mr. Calley will be soon announcing his own gubernatorial effort.  The leading Democrat appears to be former state House Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, but this candidate field is in flux, as well.  Because of its importance in the national redistricting picture, the Michigan Governor's race becomes one of the most crucial in the nation.  Incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.


September 6, 2017
More 2017 Open Seats and Decisions Abound for 2018 Candidates  
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Repass and Research America, Inc. conducted a survey for Metro News West Virginia, testing Sen. Joe Manchin (D) against his two top Republican opponents.  The survey (8/11-20; 400 WV likely voters drawn from all 55 WV counties) released in late August finds Sen. Manchin leading both Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.  According to the findings, Sen. Manchin would lead Rep. Jenkins 50-40%, and fares slightly better opposite Attorney General Morrisey.  The latter pairing gives the Senator a 52-38% advantage.  

House

A WPA Intelligence poll taken in early August (8/7-8; 1,040 AL-2 likely GOP primary voters) but released late this week finds incumbent Alabama Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) lagging.  The data finds her leading primary opponent Barry Moore, a Republican state Representative, by a scant 34-21% margin.  The Congresswoman was re-elected last November with only 49% of the vote, so this primary challenge should be taken seriously.

It appears that a Kennedy and a Bush will be vying to challenge Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez/Western Slope).  Previously, state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs) had announced her congressional candidacy.  Now, Grand Junction City Councilman Chris Kennedy has joined her in the Democratic primary.  Rep. Tipton was originally elected in 2010 and has averaged 55.3% of the vote in his three re-election campaigns and will again be favored in 2018. 

Hospital consultant Ellen Murphy Meehan, ex-wife of Massachusetts former Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Lowell), said this week that she will not become a candidate in the open 3rd District.  Last month, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) announced her retirement from the House at the end of the current Congress.  Considering declaring their candidacies are Democrats Daniel Koh, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, state Sen. Barbara L'Italien (D-Lawrence), state Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut), and Lori Loureiro Trahan, former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Meehan.  No one has yet come forward for Republicans.  Democrats are favored to hold the seat, but the general election campaign could become competitive.

President Trump announced that he will nominate Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa) to be the next NASA Administrator.  Mr. Bridenstine was first elected to the House in 2012, defeating incumbent Rep. John Sullivan (R-Tulsa) in the Republican primary.  At the time, candidate Bridenstine pledged to serve no more than three terms.  Since he was not running for re-election in 2018, a five-way Republican primary is already underway.  The three top candidates appear to be businessman Kevin Hern, former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, and state Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow).  Should Bridenstine's confirmation process move quickly, a special election could be held to fill the balance of the current term.  The eventual GOP nominee is expected to hold the strongly Republican district.

President Trump also indicated that he will nominate Pennsylvania Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) as his Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly referred to as the nation's "drug czar."  Earlier in the year the appointment was going to be made, but Mr. Marino backed away because of an illness in his family.  Similarly to the Oklahoma situation described above, Mr. Marino's northeastern Pennsylvania seat could go to special election should the confirmation process move quickly.  The seat is projected to remain Republican.

Texas former Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), who fell to Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) in two consecutive elections, announced that he will not run again in 2018.  He had previously filed a new FEC committee, and indicated he was hoping the redistricting ruling would change the 23rd District in his favor.  But, the special federal three-judge panel did not alter the district boundaries in their final ruling.  Three Democrats are in the race, and party leaders reportedly look favorably upon former federal prosecutor Jay Hulings as possibly their strongest candidate.  This race will again likely evolve into a toss-up contest.

Governor

Hawaii US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) announced over the Labor Day weekend that she will challenge Gov. David Ige in next year's Democratic primary.  In 2014, Mr. Ige, who served 30 years in the Hawaii legislature, unseated Gov. Neil Abercrombie in that year's Democratic primary.  Ms. Hanabusa was first elected to Congress in 2010.  She unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Brian Schatz in the 2014 Democratic primary, losing by just over one percentage point.  She returned to the House last year after her 1st District successor, Rep. Mark Takai (D-Aiea), passed away from pancreatic cancer.  The Hawaii primary is scheduled for August 11, 2018.

Former Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D), who served two terms after his original election in 2002, indicated this week that he is considering running again in 2018.  Like current Gov. Paul LePage (R), who is ineligible to seek a third term, Mr. Baldacci was able to win election in a three-way format with less than 40% of the vote.  Most of the attention so far has been on the Republican side of this open seat race, where four-term Sen. Susan Collins (R) is also considering entering the Governor's race.  Former Health & Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew, a favorite among Maine conservatives, is already a Republican primary candidate.  Sen. Collins said she will make a final decision about the Governor's race "this fall."

 

The hotly contested Minnesota open Governor's campaign now has one fewer contender.  Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman (R) decided to end his effort for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.  This leaves 2014 nominee Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, former state Republican Party chairman Keith Downey, state Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound City), and state Representative and former Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-White Bear Lake) in the Republican field.  The Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate grouping features US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), state Auditor Rebecca Otto, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and state Reps. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul; former Majority Leader), Tina Liebling (D-Rochester), and Paul Thissen (D-Minneapolis).  Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is retiring after two terms.


August 30, 2017
Senate Polling Abound and Candidates for Governor Make Their Intentions Known  
by Jim Ellis
 

Top Lines:

Senate

Two new Alabama polls bring the upcoming special Senate Republican run-off election into closer proximity. The first two surveys gave former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore commanding 18-19 point leads over appointed Sen. Luther Strange. This week's data, first from Voter Surveys & Consulting (8/21-23; 601 likely Republican run-off voters) gives Strange major hope. The VS&C result finds him trailing 41-45%. The new Harper Polling survey (8/24-26; 600 likely Republican run-off voters) provides the interim Senator even better numbers. According to HP, the split between Moore and Strange is 47-45%. The run-off election is scheduled for September 26th.

Last week the Phoenix-based HighGround Public Affairs Consulting firm released its poll of the Arizona electorate that gave former state Sen. Kelli Ward a 42-28% advantage over Sen. Jeff Flake (R) in the 2018 Republican primary, but the sample size was low bringing the results into question. This week, JMC Analytics & Polling (8/26-27; 500 likely AZ Republican households) provides confirming results. They find Ms. Ward's lead to be an even stronger 47-21%, suggesting deep trouble for Sen. Flake. Though he is way down in polling right now, the primary election isn't until August 28, 2018, so he has a full year to right his political ship.

A new Florida Atlantic University survey (released 8/29; 800 FL registered voters via online and automated response) provides good news for Gov. Rick Scott (R). It is widely believed that the term-limited Governor will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D) next year, but the state chief executive says he is in no hurry to decide. According to the FAU poll, Sen. Nelson would edge Gov. Scott only, 42-40%. With Florida's voting history of tight statewide elections, we can expect a toss-up contest between the two well-known incumbents all the way to the next election.

Major conflicting Republican polling data was also released this week in Nevada. One poll finds incumbent Sen. Dean Heller being crushed by his GOP challenger, while the other suggests he is comfortably ahead. The JMC Analytics & Polling survey (8/24-25; 700 likely registered Republican voters) finds frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian leading Sen. Heller by a surprising 39-31% clip. But, Heller's own Tarrance Group poll (8/14-16; 300 NV GOP likely voters) finds the Senator holding a 55-33% advantage. Both surveys have methodological flaws, thus perhaps partially explaining the wide variance. Even the Tarrance poll, however, suggests that Heller is not particularly strong in the GOP primary, thus causing even further problems for the man widely seen as the top 2018 Democratic conversion target.

Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazleton), as expected, has now formally announced his US Senate challenge against two-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr. (D). Mr. Barletta must first top four active Republican candidates, but in the early going he enters the race as the favorite. President Trump had publicly encouraged the Congressman to run.

House

Utah Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City/Ogden) announced that he will run for an eighth term next year, but will not be a candidate in 2020. Mr. Bishop was first elected in 2002, and has recorded statistically strong percentages in a district where Hillary Clinton scored only 22% of the vote last November. Rep. Bishop should have an easy re-election next November, but a major Republican primary will ensue to succeed him in 2020.  

Governor

Former Alaska Sen. Mark Begich (D) confirms he is considering seeking the Democratic nomination for Governor next year. Gov. Bill Walker, last week, announced that he would run for re-election as an Independent, meaning that a three-way race among Walker, possibly Begich, and Republican state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who also this week confirmed he would run for Governor, could create a realistic victory scenario for any one of the candidates. 

The aforementioned Florida Atlantic University poll also tested the Sunshine State gubernatorial primaries. On the Republican side, state Agriculture Commissioner and former US Congressman Adam Putnam leads the candidate grouping with 27% support. He is followed by state House Speaker Richard Corcoran at 10%, US Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) at 9%, and state Sen. Jack Latvala (R-Bartow) with 2% backing. Within this group, only Putnam and Latvala are announced gubernatorial candidates. 

For the Florida Democrats, advertising trial attorney John Morgan leads the five candidates and potential candidates with 19% of the vote. Former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), the daughter of ex-Governor and Senator Bob Graham (D), follows at 14%, ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (9%), Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (8%), and real estate developer Chris King (4%). 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), though originally saying he would decide whether to seek a third term in the next month or two, surprisingly tweeted late last week that he will run again. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers joined the growing list of Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Mr. Evers was re-elected in April to a third term in his non-partisan position with 70% of the vote. He becomes the eighth Democrat in the gubernatorial primary, but he is the only statewide elected official within the primary field of candidates.


August 23, 2017
Strange Trails Moore in Runoff Poll and Courts Order Texas Redistricting 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

The first post-primary poll was released early this week, and JMC Analytics and Polling (8/17-19; 515 AL likely GOP run-off voters) sees former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore strongly outpacing appointed Sen. Luther Strange for the September 26th special Republican run-off election.  Last week, both Moore and Strange advanced from the multi-candidate primary with the former garnering 39% and the appointed incumbent taking 33 percent.  According to the JMC data, Judge Moore begins the run-off cycle with a commanding 51-32% advantage.  We can expect a major counterpunch coming from Sen. Strange and his political operation in the next few days.  The GOP run-off winner meets the eventual Democratic nominee in a December 12th special general election.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) has drawn another Republican opponent.  This week, former state Lottery director Beth Lindstrom (R) joined the seven other announced, or considering, candidates.  The most prominent of the group, and the man favored for the GOP nomination, is state Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Norwell).  By all accounts, the Senator should be safe for re-election, but the 2020 presidential campaign will loom large during this campaign and likely allow the eventual Republican nominee to attract national funding.

House

After announcing a campaign for Colorado Governor and then withdrawing, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) is again changing political course.  In making his public statement early last month about leaving the Governor's race the Congressman also said he would not return to the US House, therefore completely retiring from elective politics.  But, this week he decided to re-announce his congressional bid for 2018.  Three other Democratic congressional candidates: state Sens. Dominick Moreno and Andy Kerr, along with state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, each quickly ended their congressional candidacies.  Former US Ambassador Dan Baer (D) was less committal about leaving the race.  In any event, Rep. Perlmutter will be heavily favored to win re-nomination in mid-2018, followed by an easy re-election the following November.

In South Florida, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) has decided not to seek the open Miami-anchored 27th Congressional District seat in 2018.  He was reportedly testing the waters for such a run.  The race will be open because veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) is not seeking re-election.  Eight Democrats have jumped into the primary campaign, each looking to win the open shot at converting the district next year.  FL-27 is widely regarded as the Democrats' best national conversion opportunity since the electorate broke 58-39% in favor of Hillary Clinton.  Republicans have done well in down ballot races here, however.  Former Miami-Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro are the top announced GOP candidates. 

The special three-judge panel considering the Texas redistricting lawsuit issued a ruling that will force the re-drawing of two Lone Star State districts.  The southeast Texas CD of Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and veteran Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's (D-Austin) Austin-San Antonio seat will be re-configured.  The new map is expected to alter at least five or six districts including the aforementioned.  The ruling's surprise piece was leaving Rep. Will Hurd's (R-San Antonio) politically marginal district intact.  That means the boundaries will not change for the remainder of the decade unless tangentially touched by the 35th District re-construction. 

Within days of the announcement, two more Democrats announced their efforts to oppose Rep. Hurd.  Former federal prosecutor Jay Hulings and ex-San Antonio City Council candidate and Bernie Sanders activist Rick Trevino both became congressional candidates.  The moves may force the hand of former US Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), who lost the last two consecutive races opposite Mr. Hurd after originally winning the seat in 2012.  The 23rd CD stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, and is Texas' only swing political district

Governor 

Alaska Independent Governor Bill Walker, the only state chief executive who does not belong to one of the two major political parties, announced that he will seek re-election next year.  The move had been anticipated, but there were questions about whether he would again run as an Independent.  Some Democrats had hoped he would move their way, and he was originally a Republican.  But, Mr. Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot (D) will again run as an Independent ticket in the fall of next year.  The state Democratic Party, however, is considering changing its bylaws to allow non-Democrats to be awarded their party ballot line.  If this change occurs, delegates could then adopt the Walker-Mallot ticket as its de facto nominee slate.

Former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), who lost badly to Sen. Marco Rubio (R) in the 2016 US Senate race, has been mentioned as either a potential open seat gubernatorial candidate or possibly as a contender for his former Atlantic Coast congressional district. This week, Mr. Murphy said he will not be on the ballot next year for any political office.  This leaves Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) as the two most prominent Democratic gubernatorial candidates.  Rep. Brian Mast (R-Palm City) succeeded Mr. Murphy in the 18th Congressional District and appears to be in strong position for re-election.


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

Senate

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

Governor 

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

Governor 

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

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

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

Governor

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

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

Governor 

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

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

House

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

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

Governor 

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

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

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

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


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

Senate

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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

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

Governor 

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

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


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

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

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

House

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

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

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

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

Governor 

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