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Period Ending October 6, 2017

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

Senate

Alabama: The Opinion Savvy research firm released the first special general election survey for the Alabama Senate election, and it forecasts a close race. The poll (9/27-28; 590 likely and possible special general election voters), taken just after former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore won the party nomination on September 26, finds the new Republican nominee leading former US Attorney Doug Jones (D), 50-45%. Among the 514 respondents who say they will “definitely” vote, Moore does a bit better. His lead increases to 51-44% within this subset. For those saying they are only “considering” voting, Mr. Jones gains. Within this segment, the gap closes to a 46-45% Moore edge.

Arizona: Three-term Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announced that she will enter the 2018 US Senate race with the hope of unseating first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R). Ms. Sinema comes into the race with what appears to be a united Democratic Party. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and state Rep. David Friese (D-Tucson), both speculative Senate candidates, each said they would yield to Ms. Sinema. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also officially endorsed the Congresswoman’s candidacy. All this, while vulnerable incumbent Sen. Jeff Flake must fight through his own GOP primary against significant opposition.

Ohio: State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), the 2012 US Senate nominee who held Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) to a 51-45% win, is running again and drawing a primary challenge from investment banker Michael Gibbons. Remington Research released their new Ohio Republican primary poll on Friday (1,268 GOP respondents) and finds Mr. Mandel having little to worry about in the early going. He leads Mr. Gibbons, 50-5% according to the RR results.

Tennessee: US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood), armed with over $3 million in her campaign account and a probable endorsement from the Club for Growth, announced that she will enter the open US Senate campaign. The move was expected. Simultaneously, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) publicly stated that he will not become a Senate candidate. Former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) is a possible candidate. Andy Ogles, the Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity who had launched a primary against Sen. Bob Corker before the incumbent announced his retirement, remains active. Former state Rep. Joe Carr, who held Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) to a 9-point primary win in 2014, but then went onto suffer a crushing defeat in a congressional match-up with Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin), is another potential candidate. The eventual GOP nominee becomes a heavy favorite in the general election.

House

AZ-9: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announcing for the Senate means her Phoenix suburban US House district will be open next year. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) then quickly entered the race. Arizona has a “resign to run” law, meaning he must leave his current position before his term ends. Former state House Minority Leader Chad Campbell is another potential Democratic candidate. Physician Steve Ferrara, a retired Navy captain, is the leading Republican and has the potential to become a strong candidate, but this district is evolving into a reliably Democratic seat (Clinton: 55-38%; Obama: 51-47%).

MA-3: Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazen (D), who was potentially preparing a Democratic primary challenge to Rep. Steve Capuano (D-Somerville), has now officially switched gears. Though Cambridge is two congressional districts away from the open 3rd District, Mr. Mazen has nonetheless declared his candidacy for the open seat. He says his ties to the 3rd are growing up in the city of Andover. He will face stiff competition. Likely to enter the race are Dan Koh, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, state Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover), hotel corporation CEO Abhijit Das, and former congressional aide Lori Trahan among other potential candidates. With a September 2018 Democratic primary, this race will take a long while to gel. Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) is retiring.

MN-1: Ever since Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) announced back in July that he would run for Governor, only 2014 and ’16 party nominee Jim Hagedorn has stepped forward to compete for the Republican nomination. During the same period, seven Democrats announced candidacies in the politically marginal southern Minnesota CD. Now, however, things have changed. State Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) announced her congressional candidacy this week, adding competition for the party nod. Considering that Mr. Hagedorn lost in a tight 50.3 – 49.6% margin to Rep. Walz last November, he remains the favorite to win the state party convention endorsement and will be a strong contender for the seat next November.

NM-2: It was commonly believed that state Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn (R) would succeed outgoing US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) in the open 2nd Congressional District. But, this week he decided not to pursue the congressional contest. This makes the Republican primary a free-for-all and, in a district with 45% Hispanic population, the Democrats are certainly alive to score an upset victory in the open general election. Both primaries, to be decided in June, will be crowded. Therefore, no clear favorite currently exists, though based upon the long-term southern New Mexico voting history the eventual GOP nominee will be considered at least an early favorite to hold the seat.

NY-1: State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Bridgehampton), who came to office on the Independence Party ballot line but caucuses with the Democrats, was expected to enter the Long Island Democratic congressional primary in order to oppose two-term Rep. Lee Zeldin (D-Shirley/Smithtown). This week, however, Mr. Thiele announced that he will not run. There are still six announced candidates vying for the party nomination. In 2016, Rep. Zeldin scored a strong 55-40% re-election victory while President Trump was recording a similar 54-42% district win over Hillary Clinton.

PA-11: Though Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) running for the Senate gives the Democrats a better chance to pick up the lean Republican 11th District, they still face an uphill challenge. Now, one of their most promising potential candidates, state Sen. John Yudichak (D-Luzerne County), has made the decision to remain in the state legislature. To date, no major Democrat has yet come forward to run, but former state Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff (D) is said to be considering the race. State Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Carlisle), former state Revenue Department Secretary Dan Meuser, and Berwick Borough Councilman Andrew Shecktor comprise the early Republican field.

PA-15: So far the Democratic field lining up to attempt converting the Lehigh Valley seat to their party appears weak, but it may just have gotten stronger. Allentown City Solicitor Susan Ellis Wild (D) announced that she would join the race. Since her current position is an appointed one, she has actually only been on that ballot once in a losing effort for Lehigh County Commissioner. She joins Copley City Councilman Bill Leiner, energy consultant Laura Quick, pastor Greg Edwards, and attorney Chip Collica as announced Democratic candidates. Republican state Reps. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg) and Ryan Mackenzie (R-Macungie) lead the GOP candidates. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) is retiring upon completing seven terms.

PA-18: Under siege from revelations regarding an extra-marital affair that led to the Congressman allegedly encouraging his mistress to have an abortion after co-sponsoring pro-life legislation, eight-term Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) announced late this week that he will resign from Congress effective Oct. 21. The district will go to a special election, but is too late to run concurrently with the November 7 municipal elections. The political parties will caucus to nominate candidates so there will be no open primaries. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will schedule the special election once the seat officially is vacant. The Republicans are heavy favorites to hold the seat. President Trump scored a 58-38% win here last November.

SC-5: The surprisingly strong 2017 special election candidate, former Wall Street executive Archie Parnell (D), has apparently decided to take another run at newly elected Rep. Ralph Norman (R-Rock Hill). Mr. Parnell only lost the special election by 3 percentage points even though the national Democratic political apparatus left him for politically dead. Mr. Parnell has scheduled “a special announcement” for Monday, which will undoubtedly be a declaration of candidacy. He made have already taken his best shot, however. In the low-turnout special election, chances for an upset in the conservative district were much better than in this coming regular election. Still, the Parnell move clearly gives the South Carolina Democrats their best opportunity for victory, but Mr. Norman remains a heavy favorite for re-election.

TN-7: On the heels of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) announcing her Senate campaign, state Sen. Mark Green (R-Ripley) declared his candidacy for her open 7th Congressional District. Mr. Green was nominated as President Trump’s Secretary of the Army, but withdrew when his confirmation appeared problematic. The 7th District, a western Tennessee seat that sits between Nashville and Memphis, is solidly Republican (Trump: 67-28%; Romney: 66-33%). Therefore, the eventual GOP nominee is a virtual sure bet to capture the seat next November.

Governor

Maryland: The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research organization released the results of their new Maryland poll (9/27-30; 625 MD registered voters), testing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s political strength as he seeks re-election in this most Democratic of states. Opposite Prince Georges 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).

Nevada: The Las Vegas shooting tragedy influenced two gubernatorial hopefuls in different ways during the week. Spurred to action, Clark County Commissioner and former state legislator Chris Giunchigliani (D) announced her intention to compete for the open Democratic gubernatorial nomination. She faces fellow Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who became an official candidate back in June. Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), who had scheduled an announcement news conference, postponed his plans in remembrance of the victims who perished in the senseless massacre. Mr. Laxalt is a heavy favorite over state Treasurer Dan Schwartz in the Republican primary and will likely be considered to have at least a slight advantage over the eventual Democratic nominee. GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval is ineligible to seek a third term.