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.

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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.


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.


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
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.
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. 
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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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 


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.


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.


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 


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. 


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.


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 


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. 


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.


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 


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.


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.


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  


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.


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


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.


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 


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.


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.


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 


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.  


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.


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:

  • Senator Jeff Flake trails fmr. state Sen. Kelli Ward in recent AZ GOP Primary polling
  • Rep. Lou Barletta (R) will challenge Sen. Bob Casey (D) for PA senate seat 
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-1) will run for eighth term in 2018
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will run for reelection 


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.


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.  


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.