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Period Ending November 25, 2016

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

President

California continues to count ballots in its marathon reporting process. Going into the Thanksgiving Day break, only 12 of 58 counties had completed their counting. The reported Secretary of State’s unprocessed ballot number indicates that 1,466,308 ballots remain to be added to the final count. Only one race appears affected by the late additions, that of the CA-49 contest between Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D).

The national turnout has now surpassed 133.7 million votes, an all-time record. Once the California totals are finally complete, the national count will exceed 135,000,000. The previous record was set in 2008 at 131,426,292 votes.

Green Party presidential nominee and now the Hillary Clinton campaign are seeking re-counts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The latter state’s deadline expired last week, so the re-count request there is official. Deadlines are approaching this week in the other two states. The Stein operation is financing the re-count. The Clinton campaign is only sending monitoring attorneys and not contributing to the re-count support. The re-count process, in and of itself, will not alter the final result in any of the states. Instead, they are hoping to find that the voting systems have been hacked or tampered with even though no such evidence for such a premise exists to date.

Senate

Alabama: Intrigue is surrounding the soon-to-be open Senate seat of Attorney-General Designate Jeff Sessions (R). Once the Senator is confirmed to his new post, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) will have the power to appoint his replacement, and then schedule the special election to fill the balance of the current term. Virtually every member of the state’s congressional delegation is interested in the appointment as are many state officials. Gov. Bentley still faces an investigation against him concerning an extra-marital affair with a state employee that could result in an eventual impeachment. Attorney General Luther Strange (R) is in charge of the Bentley investigation, and should the Governor appoint him to the Senate he would also have the subsequent opportunity to appoint the new Attorney General. Therefore, this eventual Senate vacancy appointment will feature more in the way of political machinations than simply making a short-term vacancy selection.

Arizona: A new Remington Research poll (11/15-16; 1,122 weighted for Republican turnout in the 2018 GOP primary) brings Sen. Jeff Flake (R) bad news. Already drawing one primary opponent, largely because of his feud with Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, Remington finds him tied 35-35% with former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), 2016 primary opponent to Sen. John McCain and already an announced 2018 candidate, and trailing state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), 33-42%. DeWit has not announced his Senate candidacy, but has publicly stated that he will not seek re-election to his current position. Sen. Flake’s favorability index, within a sampling group within his own party, is a poor 30:49% positive to negative. Obviously, Sen. Flake will have to improve his image and standing within the party if he is to win a second term in what is becoming a politically competitive state.

Louisiana: The only December 10 Senate run-off published poll comes from the Trafalgar Group (11/11-14; 2,200 LA likely run-off voters) and finds Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy leading Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) by a 58-33% count. The quiet nature of this run-off contest clearly favors Kennedy, who is expected to prevail on Saturday.

Minnesota: Speculation is budding that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) may pass on running for a third term and instead enter the open Governor’s race. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is ineligible to seek re-election. Klobuchar would be a prohibitive favorite to win the Governor’s race should she enter, but the Senate race would then come wide open. This is a situation to watch. It is likely multiple candidates from both parties would enter the Senate race should Klobuchar make the move to the Governor’s campaign.

Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) announced that she will seek re-election to a third term when the seat comes before the voters in 2018. Ms. McCaskill is rated among the most vulnerable Democrats who will be on the ballot in the next election.

House

CA-7: Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove/Sacramento) has officially defeated Sheriff Scott Jones (R) though approximately 23,000 ballots remains to be counted. Rep. Bera was projected the winner with over 279,000 votes tabulated and the spread being 51-49%. This is the third consecutive close race Mr. Bera has had in this marginal Sacramento County district.

CA-49: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) continues to cling to a lead over retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D). It is likely that counting will finally conclude at some point in the coming week. Right now, Issa has a 154,057 (50.4%) to 151,833 (49.6%), with possibly as many as 30,000+ ballots remaining to be counted. Applegate would have to score over 54% of the vote in order to defeat Rep. Issa, however, but the final margin will close. Mr. Applegate actually has a sustained 53-47% lead in San Diego County, which represents 77% of the district’s population. Issa exceeds 60% of the Orange County vote, but less than 3,500 votes remain to be counted there. If current trends continue, the Congressman should win re-election to a ninth term but in 1,500-1,900 margin range.

LA-3: The Trafalgar Group also surveyed the two congressional run-offs in their 11/14-17 poll, testing 600 likely run-off voters in both districts. Retired Lafayette police captain Clay Higgins takes a 50-42% lead over Public Service Commissioner and ex-gubernatorial candidate Scott Angelle. The latter claims his internal polling gives him a slight lead. A local environmental issue that occurred when Angelle was exiting his position as the director of the state Natural Resources Department has damaged his congressional bid. This is a double-Republican run-off, so there is little to no outside involvement coming into the campaign. Angelle has a financial resource advantage, which will be evident in this closing week.

LA-4: As previously reported, Democrat J. Marshall Jones Jr. placed first in the jungle primary, but is not favored win Saturday’s run-off in this strongly Republican open district. The Trafalgar Group also surveyed this campaign, and finds state Rep. Mike Johnson (R) holding a 59-35% advantage and is well on his way to securing the district on Saturday.

Governor

South Carolina: President-Elect Trump’s announcement that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) will be appointed as US Ambassador to the United Nations, means Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R), the state’s former Attorney General and the man who Haley defeated in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, will ascend to the Governorship upon her resignation. His two-year stint in the state’s top job will clearly give him a leg up to winning the 2018 Republican nomination and for the subsequent general election.