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Period Ending January 20, 2017

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

President

Donald Trump officially becomes President today, as Inauguration Day has finally arrived. The Trump Administration is poised to hit the ground running, and after the festivities end this weekend, most of the early activity will be dedicated to confirming the cabinet and key appointments.

Senate

California: It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), aged 83 and technically the body’s oldest member, would be retiring when she is next scheduled to face the voters in 2018. According to public statements she made this week, however, such may not be the case. Sen. Feinstein will turn 85 before the next election, but octogenarian Charles Grassley (R-IA) was just re-elected in November at 83, as was Richard Shelby (R-AL), 82, and John McCain, 80. Additionally, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), 82, is also making comments that he may reverse his previously stated plans to retire. He, too, comes in-cycle in 2018. The other 80+ Senators are Jim Inhofe (R-OK), 82, and Pat Roberts (R-KS), 80.

House

CA-34: With Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment to replace Sen. Kamala Harris (D) as California’s Attorney General, just days away from final confirmation to his new post, his quick resignation from Congress will lead to a special election 18 to 20 weeks from the vacancy becoming official. Should Rep. Becerra resign next week, we can expect the entire special election process to conclude by in early June. The organization Latino Decisions conducted a poll of the 34th District electorate (1/14; 400 CA-34 registered voters) and found a surprising result. Placing first with 30% preference is former Bernie Sanders Deputy Political Director Arturo Carmona (D), followed by the presumed front-runner, State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D), who only posted 19%. All other candidates were in single-digits.

The poll is skewed in that the questionnaire did not include all of the candidates (there are 16) on the ballot test, and the pollsters emphasized Bernie Sanders and Carmona’s campaign work for him to a greater degree than necessary. But, if the Sanders’ faction can coalesce behind Carmona, this poll suggests that he has a legitimate path to victory.

IA-1: Two-term State Sen. Liz Mathis (D-Cedar Rapids), who was often mentioned for the 2018 gubernatorial race, announced that she is not running statewide next year. She did not close the door, however, on challenging sophomore Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque), who holds the most Democratic district in the state.

SC-5: Remington Research (1/7-8; 778 SC-5 likely special election voters) conducted a survey of the soon-to-be scheduled special election to replace Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill). The Congressman has been nominated as President Trump’s Office of Management & Budget director. He will resign from the House upon confirmation to his new post. According to the Remington data, it is state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R-York) who has jumped out to the early lead in the congressional contest. The survey found Pope attracting 25% preference, followed by state Rep. Ralph Norman (R) and former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chris Connolly who are tied at 9% apiece.

Though Mr. Pope was obviously included in the poll, he is actually an announced candidate for Governor, and not Congress. But, with Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) soon becoming Governor when incumbent Nikki Haley (R) resigns to become US Ambassador to the United Nations it is more than likely that the former will have little trouble in winning nomination to a full term in 2018. Therefore, Rep. Pope entering the congressional special election is a much greater possibility.

Governor

Georgia: Former state Senator Jason Carter (D), grandson of former President Jimmy Carter (D), says Donald Trump’s election as President makes it more likely that he will again run for Governor in 2018. Carter challenged Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in 2014, but lost 53-45% after appearing more competitive early in the campaign.

Illinois: The count of Democrats at least not ruling out launching a challenge to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has now increased to 11. In addition to Reps. Robin Kelly (D-Matteson/ Chicago) and Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), former Gov. Pat Quinn, and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, who replaced Barack Obama in the legislature, both indicated this week that they are considering the race. Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy, son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, looked to be close to announcing his candidacy, but has not yet done so.

Nevada: The Republican hierarchy appears to be clearing the field for Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) to succeed term-limited Gov. Brian Sandoval (R). Sen. Dean Heller (R), Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson (R), and now Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) have all said they will not seek the open Governor’s post. Mr. Laxalt has not yet committed to the Governor’s race, but he is actively raising campaign funds for a statewide race. It is now far more likely he enters the Governor’s race rather than seeking re-election. As many as seven Democrats, including Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), former Secretary of State Ross Miller, and wealthy businessman Steve Cloobeck, are being mentioned as possible candidates.

New Jersey: Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) made her gubernatorial bid official this week, announcing for the 2017 statewide election. Though Gov. Chris Christie (R) chose Guadagno when the office was first created, the Lt. Governor wasted little time in publicly attacking him for spending on the state helicopter and the state capitol’s renovation project, symbolic of how badly their relationship has deteriorated. Democrats are favored to convert this position. Gov. Christie is ineligible to seek a third term.

Virginia: Newly released campaign finance reports show a very tight resource battle between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, the two leading candidates for the open Governor’s position in the 2017 election. From July 1 to the end of 2016, Northam raised $1.6 million and reports about $2.5 million cash-on-hand. Gillespie obtained $1.5 million and commands just under $2 million in available funds.