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Period Ending January 26, 2017

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

Senate

Indiana: US Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) released the results of his early January GS Strategy Group poll, the second such survey conducted for his campaign. According to the study (1/6-9; 500 IN likely GOP primary voters), Mr. Rokita has expanded his advantage over fellow Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) while former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) also gained support. According to the results, the western state Congressman leads his opponents, 24-9-9%. The Indiana primary is May 8th. The winner faces first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the November election.

New Jersey: After seeing a hung jury result in Sen. Bob Menendez's (D) bribery trial, the US Justice Department announced that they will still push forward with further court proceedings. The timing of this latest legal battle is unclear, but it would almost assuredly not come before the Democratic primary on June 5th. It could, however, be scheduled before the general election, and in the middle of prime campaign time. Speculation is building that the Senator might be forced to resign, but that seems much less likely since he's already come close to beating the charges and the new judge already rejected several more indictments. In the meantime, wealthy Republican pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin is moving closer toward entering the race giving the GOP what appears to be a viable candidacy.

Ohio: Last year, rumors persisted that best selling author J.D. Vance (R) was going to enter the Republican Senate primary. With state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) and investment banker Michael Gibbons (R) already in the race, Mr. Vance decided not to become a candidate. When Mr. Mandel changed his plans due to his wife's recently discovered health issue, the Vance drumbeat again began to roll. Now, with Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) hopping into the Senate race from the Governor's campaign, Mr. Vance has again decided to bypass a 2018 political run. The winner of the now-presumed primary between Rep. Renacci and Mr. Gibbons faces two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in the general election.

Utah: Reports from the Beehive State indicate that former Republican presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will announce his US Senate candidacy next week. Mr. Romney will be entering the race to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R). Interestingly, it is believed that the presumed Senatorial candidate will bypass the Republican nominating convention and petition his way onto the primary ballot. With no major Republican expected to challenge Mr. Romney, this open seat race will likely be clinched the day he officially becomes a candidate.

House

CA-39: Remington Research conducted the first public poll in this Orange/Los Angeles County congressional district since veteran Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) announced his retirement. According to RR (1/10-11; 761 CA-39 likely voters), former state Assemblywoman Young Kim (R), who Mr. Royce has already endorsed, would lead a pair of Democrats in prospective general election pairings. Against lottery winner Gil Cisneros, Ms. Kim would lead 41-38%. Paired with physician Mai Khanh Tran, the Republican advantage would be a more substantial 42-33%. This campaign is expected to be highly competitive and will rank high on the national Democratic conversion target list.

CA-49: San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar (R-Encinitas) this week entered the open 49th District seat from which Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is retiring. Ms. Gaspar's 3rd Supervisorial District captures all of the San Diego County coastal regions consistent with the 49th CD. Prior to her election to county office, she served as mayor and councilmember in the city of Encinitas. The open seat contest has attracted five Republicans and four Democrats, including 2016 Democratic general election participant Doug Applegate who attracted 49.7% of the vote against Mr. Issa. The race is rated a toss-up.

FL-27: Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala is the latest Democrat reportedly considering entering the crowded primary battle to succeed retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami). After leaving the Clinton Administration, Ms. Shalala became president of the University of Miami, a position from which she retired in 2015. Already eight Democrats are vying for the party nomination, including two state legislators and a pair of local South Florida officials. Ms. Shalala would celebrate her 78th birthday soon after being sworn into office should she run and successfully win the seat.

MI-13: Investment advisor John Conyers III, son of resigned Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to establish a campaign committee for the special election to replace his father. The special schedule will run concurrently with the regular election calendar. The younger Conyers named his new congressional committee, “Conyers to Conyers.” Also in the field of candidates is his cousin, state Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit). The Democrats will hold the seat in November, but whether or not a Conyers carries the day still remains to be decided.

NV-4: Nevada's 4th Congressional District was created in 2011, after the 2010 census awarded the state a new district in reapportionment because of massive population growth. Since that time, the electorate has yet to re-elect an incumbent Congressman. With freshman incumbent Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) being forced into retirement because of sexual harassment accusations, the seat will be open in 2018, and two defeated incumbents are attempting political comebacks. As reported here last week, former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) announced his candidacy. This week, ex-Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) declared that he, too, will again become a congressional candidate. The former Congressman still faces serious Democratic primary opposition in the person of state Sen. Pat Spearman, who says she will not yield to Horsford. Assuming Horsford wins the Democratic nomination, the general election will feature a re-match of the 2014 campaign. This pairing would obviously result in one of the two returning to Washington.

NY-24: Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner (D), who was clearly the Democrats' top recruitment prospect to challenge Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse), declared late this week that she will not become a congressional candidate. Though the 24th District is politically marginal, Mr. Katko has performed very well, starting with a 59% defeat of incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei (D) in 2014. Rep. Katko was re-elected in 2016 with 58% despite being a top Democratic target and Hillary Clinton winning the CD with a four-point margin.

Pennsylvania: The state Supreme Court this week struck down the Pennsylvania congressional lines as a political gerrymander under the Pennsylvania Constitution by a 4-3 vote. They have ordered the map re-drawn and enacted by February 15th. The Republican legislature is now tasked with re-crafting the congressional delegation map, which will be subject to Gov. Tom Wolf's (D) veto. Therefore, it is a certainty that the map will undergo major changes that will favor the Democrats. The current delegation split is 13R-5D. The four open seats currently represented by Reps. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona), Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton), and Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) give the GOP map-drawers a major opportunity to concede seats using the territory within these districts and surrounding regions as the basis for the mandated changes in order to mitigate the party's losses.

PA-7: In the middle of a public sexual harassment controversy and staring at a likely adverse redistricting situation, Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford) announced late this week that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term. Mr. Meehan's decision now brings the House open seat count to an even 50, of which 35 are Republican-held. The Philadelphia suburban seat has performed as a marginal political district though Mr. Meehan held it easily, averaging 58.9% in his four election victories. It's craggily shape made it a natural for the redistricting argument, and this seat will come front and center in the subsequent re-draw action the state Supreme Court ordered earlier this week. It is likely a new 7th District will lean Democratic.

PA-8: Attorney Scott Wallace (D), whose grandfather was Vice President Henry Wallace, filed candidate papers with the Federal Election Commission to enter the 8th District Democratic congressional primary. If he proceeds with his candidacy, Mr. Wallace will face attorney Rachel Reddick and non-profit organization executive Steve Bechler. The eventual nominee then challenges Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) in a race that has strong competitive potential. Henry Wallace was Vice President during the war years of 1941-45, and served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was dumped from the 1944 Democratic ticket at the national convention in favor of Missouri Sen. Harry Truman, who would obviously go onto become President.

PA-18: A new DFM Research Democratic poll conducted for the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation union (1/18-19; 384 PA-18 registered voters) finds Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) leading Democratic attorney Conor Lamb by only a three-point margin, 41-38%. The poll appears correctly geographically dispersed within the four-county congressional district, but the partisan ratio is unreported. The close margin is inconsistent with other recent internal Republican polls, which show Mr. Saccone holding leads of nine and ten points. The special election to replace resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) is March 13th.

Governor

Alaska: Former state Senate President Charlie Huggins (R) announced that he is ending his gubernatorial campaign mainly due to poor fundraising. The decision leaves former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, state Rep. and former House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), and businessman and Anchorage Economic Development Corporation founder Scott Hawkins as the three major Republican candidates.

The question remains whether former US Sen. Mark Begich (D) will enter the race, but so far he continues to keep quiet about potentially launching a gubernatorial campaign. Assuming Mr. Begich does not run, then Gov. Bill Walker, the nation's only Independent state chief executive, will again likely become the de facto Democratic nominee and be favored for re-election. If Begich decides to run, a free-for-all campaign could result.

Iowa: For a state with just four congressional districts, the Iowa Governor's race is attracting major financial resources according to the latest state financial disclosure report. Incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has so far raised $3.7 million, and carries $4.1 million cash-on-hand. Her Republican primary opponent, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett showed income of $844,000 with cash reserves of $579,000.

Big money is flowing on the Democratic side, both in terms of fundraising and candidate contributions with three candidates already exceeding the $1 million mark for the June primary. Businessman Fred Hubbell raised $2.9 million and has $1.2 million in the bank. Service Employees International Union official Cathy Glasson also cracked the $1 million barrier, bringing in $1.3 million, and now has $729,000 in her campaign account. State Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) also broke into seven figures, raising $1.1 million with $481,000 remaining.