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Period Ending October 18, 2019

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


Cash-on-Hand: More is becoming known about the presidential campaigns' financial status. The October 15th filing disclosure deadline is now past, and reports are becoming public. We knew from the announcements last week that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) had raised the most among Democrats during the quarter, and now we see that he has the largest dollar amount in his account, $33.7 million. Next is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with $25.7 million followed closely by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's $23 million. Biggest surprise: former Vice President Joe Biden showing only $9 million on hand, just ahead of businessman Andrew Yang's $6 million.

Iowa Poll: We continue to see tight polling coming from the Iowa Caucus prelude, scheduled for a vote on February 3rd. Emerson College (10/13-16; 317 IA likely Democratic Caucus attenders) finds former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren tied at the top of the Democratic field with each posting 23% support figures. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is seeing his Iowa efforts begin to bear fruit as he captures third position with 16% preference. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) drops to fourth position with 13%. California Sen. Kamala Harris who, like Buttigieg, also said she is making Iowa a top priority has failed to gel, drops all the way down to a tie for eighth position with only 2% backing.

New York Poll: Siena College surveyed the New York electorate (10/6-10; 742 NY registered voters; 340 NY registered Democratic voters) and found former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) locked in a flat tie at 21% apiece. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a close third with 16%. New York has 273 first ballot delegates after gaining 49 more in a recent Democratic National Committee nomination process adjustment. The addition makes New York the second largest contingent at the Democratic National Convention.


Colorado: Saying she has no path to victory after former Gov. John Hickenlooper entered the Democratic Senatorial primary, former state House Majority Leader Alice Madden announced over the weekend that she is ending her statewide campaign. She joins ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston and former diplomat Dan Baer in departing from the contest since Mr. Hickenlooper emerged after exiting the presidential campaign. Though eleven candidates remain in the Democratic primary, it appears obvious that the general election will feature Mr. Hickenlooper and Sen. Cory Gardner (R) in a campaign that will draw a great deal of national attention.

Kansas: It appears the Democrats have found their candidate to challenge for Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) open seat. Recently, party-switching state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills) announced that she would run for the Senate, and has already earned the endorsement of an individual who appeared to be her strongest primary opponent. Former US Attorney Barry Grissom (D) has withdrawn from the race and announced his endorsement of Sen. Bollier. Republicans will have a crowded primary at this point featuring US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), state Sen. President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), former Secretary of State and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, and Kansas Turnpike Authority chairman and former Kansas City Chiefs football player Dave Lindstrom. Rumors continue to persist that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may eventually become a candidate for the position.

Massachusetts: Author and businessman Steve Pemberton, who announced his US Senate candidacy back in July, has withdrawn from the Bay State race, citing a "rigged political system." Mr. Pemberton on leaving the contest said that he, "ran into an impenetrable wall of legacy and birthright - of incumbency and connections" thus denying him the ability to construct a viable campaign.

Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) entering the race to challenge incumbent Sen. Ed Markey in the Democratic primary makes this campaign very difficult for any other candidate. Attorney Sharon Liss-Riordan remains, but it is already clear that she will continue as a minor candidate. The Massachusetts primary is not scheduled until September 15th, so what appears to be evolving into a Markey-Kennedy race will develop over a long campaign cycle.

Michigan: The Marketing Resource Group just released their Michigan US Senate poll (10/7-10; 600 MI registered voters) and again find a close contest between Sen. Gary Peters (D) and businessman and retired Army Ranger John James (R). The ballot test sees Sen. Peters clinging to a 43-40% edge. This is a similar result to an Emerson College poll conducted in March that found the two separated by a scant 44-43% spread. Last month, however, Target-Insyght released a much different result: Peters ahead 53-37%. Most observers believe this Senate race will evolve into a close contest.

North Carolina: Raleigh's Meredith College (9/29-10/7; 998 NC registered voters) finds a typically close race developing for the North Carolina Senate seat. Here, Sen. Thom Tillis (R) is in a dogfight with both state Sen. Erika Smith (D-Gaston) and former state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D). When each is paired with the Senator, both candidates received 33% support.


AZ-1: Former Major League Baseball pitcher Curt Schilling, who had been speculating that he might enter the 1st District Republican primary in order to challenge Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Sedona) in the general election, has now ruled out becoming a candidate. Though he indicated two weeks ago that he was leaning toward running, comments he made over the weekend about being interested in managing or coaching at the major league level was a clue that he had already made up his mind not to run. The 1st District is politically marginal and one of 31 Democratic seats that voted for President Trump in 2016.

CO-1: Former Denver state House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver) over the weekend dropped her Democratic primary challenge to veteran US Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver). Ms. Duran suffered a burst appendix less than a month ago, and said she came to the conclusion that she can "be more effective in pursuing transformational change through other means." Absent a strong primary challenge, Rep. DeGette again looks like a sure bet for re-election and should easily win a 13th term from this heavily Democratic urban seat.

IL-6: Former Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti (R) this weekend announced that she will end her 2020 congressional bid. She had entered the race to attempt to unseat freshman Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove) but faced a Republican primary opposite conservative former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, the gubernatorial candidate who held incumbent Bruce Rauner to just a 51% primary victory that left him in a politically weakened state. He would go onto lose the 2018 general election to current Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in a 55-39% landslide. Ms. Ives will now almost assuredly square off against Rep. Casten in a seat that Republicans formerly held in the person of then-Rep. Peter Roskam.

MD-7: House Oversight & Reform Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), serving his 12th full term in office, passed away yesterday morning at the age of 68. Now, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has ten days to schedule a replacement special election to fill the vacancy. According to Maryland election law, the special primary must occur before the end of this year, with a general to follow within 65 days of the first vote. This means the entire cycle must be completed on or before March 5th.

We can expect a crowded Democratic primary to form as future candidates will battle to become Mr. Cummings' successor. With a 68-16% party registration advantage, the 7th District will remain in Democratic hands. The Maryland vacancy now becomes the 26th open seat during the current election cycle, including the three vacancies: MD-7 (Cummings), NY-27 (Chris Collins), and WI-7 (Sean Duffy). Republicans currently hold 19 of the open seats, and Democrats now up to seven.

NY-17: There has been much speculation that former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton would enter the open 17th Congressional District race now that veteran New York Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) is retiring. Appearing on The View program, Ms. Clinton indicated that while running for Congress could be on her personal horizon at some point in the future, she is not looking to run in 2020. She responded to Whoppi Goldberg's question about whether she would become a candidate as saying, ...right now, the answer is no."

OK-2: The overwhelming number of the intra-party challenges to sitting House incumbents lie on the Democratic side in this election cycle, but Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Westville/Muskogee), who broke his three-term limit pledge during the 2018 campaign, has drawn a competitive 2020 Republican challenger. State Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow), a strong social issues conservative leader who reportedly does not get along with his party's leadership in the legislature, announced that he will challenge the four-term Congressman next year.

TX-2: Mike Collier, the 2018 Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor who was reported to be considering challenging freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston), says he will not run for Congress in 2020. This leaves educator Elisa Cardnell (D) as the Congressman's only political opponent. The candidate filing deadline, December 9th, is fast approaching. The development means that Mr. Crenshaw will likely sail to re-election next year.

WI-5: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Hills), second in US House seniority with what will be 42 years of congressional service at the end of the current term and not seeking re-election in 2020, looks to be yielding to a very strong successor. State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is rapidly building support to the point that he could actually run without strong opposition for a seat that hasn't been open in more than two generations.

Yesterday, wealthy entrepreneur and former US Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson (R) said he would not run for the House seat and endorsed Mr. Fitzgerald, following a long line of would-be office seekers who took similar action. Senator Fitzgerald's political strength is such that he appears a virtual lock to become a member of the next Congress.

WI-7: While Gov. Tony Evers (D) has not yet re-scheduled the special election for the open 7th Congressional District (Rep. Sean Duffy (R) resigned for family reasons) after his original election dates did not comply with the federal MOVE Act, two Democrats have finally entered the campaign contest. Wausau School Board member Tricia Zunker and businessman and Vietnam War veteran Lawrence Dale (D) have both announced that they will enter this race. Republicans have more candidates, but the race is essentially between state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) and disabled Afghan War veteran and Jason Church, also an ex-aide to Sen. Ron Johnson (R)


Kentucky: The Kentucky Governor's race will be decided on November 5th, and a new Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy survey (10/10-13; 625 KY registered voters) paints a different picture of the race as the campaigns begin to enter the stretch drive. The last poll released here was in late August, from Garin-Hart-Yang Research, and it gave Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear a 48-39% lead over Gov. Matt Bevin (R). The Mason-Dixon results find a different trend. According to M-D, the race has now evolved into a flat tie with both candidates deadlocked at 46%. It is clear that Gov. Bevin has again made this race competitive, and we can now expect a dash to the political finish line.

Louisiana: While late race polling suggested that Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) had a chance to win re-election outright, he was instead sent into a November 16th run-off election with Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. In the jungle primary contest, Mr. Edwards finished with 46.6% of the vote, ahead of Mr. Rispone's 27.4% and US Rep. Ralph Abraham's (R-Alto/Monroe) 23.6%. Turnout exceeded 1.35 million voters, a 20.6% increase over the 2015 jungle primary. We can now expect a highly competitive run-off campaign. No Governor forced into a run-off has previously won re-election in Louisiana history.

North Carolina: The aforementioned Meredith College North Carolina survey (9/29-10/7; 998 NC registered voters) reports a positive result for first-term Governor Roy Cooper (D) who will stand for a second term next year. The Meredith data yields a 46-33% margin in the Governor's favor. In this poll, he was paired with the likely GOP 2020 gubernatorial nominee, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R).