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Period Ending February 16, 2018

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


California: The Public Policy Institute of California released the results of their statewide voter poll (1/21-30; 1,705 CA adults; 1,367 CA registered voters; 1,042 CA likely voters) and tested only Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) in the upcoming US Senate race as part of their extensive questionnaire. According to the ballot test question asked to the self-described likely voters, Sen. Feinstein would lead the Los Angeles state legislative leader, by a commanding 46-17%. Additionally, recent year-end cash-on-hand figures find Sen. Feinstein holding $9.8 million in her campaign account as compared to state Sen. de Leon’s miniscule $359,000.

Montana: WPA Intelligence just completed a Montana Senate Republican primary survey (2/5-6; 401 MT likely GOP primary voters) and finds state Auditor Matt Rosendale jumping out to a double-digit lead over businessman Troy Downing, retired state judge Russell Fagg, and state Sen. Al Olszewski. According to the WPA data, Mr. Rosendale has a 28-12-11-5% advantage over the other three in the listed order. Other also-ran candidates record less than 4 percent. The winner of the June Republican primary faces two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D) in what is forecast as a difficult challenger campaign.

Tennessee: Signs are clearly growing that Sen. Bob Corker (R) is considering reversing his retirement decision. Staff is now confirming that the Senator is conducting meeting to assess his re-election chances, and he is even going so far as attempting to repair his broken relationship with President Trump after the two exchanged heated words during the past few months. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) already has amassed a little over $4.6 million and led Mr. Corker substantially in the Senate Conservatives Fund poll (2/12-13; 600 TN likely Republican primary voters) that tested them in a hypothetical one-on-one match-up. According to the results, Ms. Blackburn has a 49-26% advantage over the two-term incumbent. The third Republican candidate, former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) posted only 9% support. The candidate filing deadline is April 5, with the Tennessee primary occurring August 2.

West Virginia: In a Harper Polling survey released on Friday (2/5-6; 500 WV likely Republican primary voters via automated device for the Jenkins campaign), Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) leads Attorney General Patrick Morrisey 33-25%, with convicted Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship still having 12% preference. So far, Mr. Morrisey has a slight combined edge in fundraising. The two-term Attorney General has raised $1.4 million, while an unconnected Super PAC supporting his candidacy banked an additional $470,000. The campaign’s cash-on-hand total is $1.1 million. Rep. Jenkins raised $1.1 million and has $1.4 million in the bank counting a transfer from his House campaign account. The primary race will be decided May 8th, and promises to be a highly competitive campaign. The winner will then challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the general election.


AZ-2: With Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) leaving this politically marginal district to run for the Senate, Democratic conversion chances are enhanced. Former state Rep. Matt Heinz (D), who lost 57-43% to Rep. McSally in 2016, is running again and brandishes a Public Policy Polling survey that suggests he would fare better in an open general election than former 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff). According to Heinz’s data (2/8-10; 841 AZ-2 registered voters), he would lead Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Lea Marquez Peterson (R), by a 45-31% margin. In comparison, Ms. Kirkpatrick’ advantage over the lone announced Republican candidate would be 43-34%. But, the former nominee is considerably behind ex-Rep. Kirkpatrick in campaign resources, and he did not release early Democratic primary numbers from the survey. The latest FEC report finds the former Congresswoman holding $463,977 in her campaign account, versus only $193,117 for Mr. Heinz.

FL-9/11: Irascible former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) confirmed yesterday he will again run for the House of Representatives. The ex-Congressman originally won his seat in 2008 when he scored a 52-48% victory over then-Rep. Ric Keller (R-Orlando) in the first Obama year. Two years later, current Rep. Dan Webster (R-Clermont) unseated Rep. Grayson in the Republican wave election. After Florida gained two seats in reapportionment, one of which went to the central part of the state, Mr. Grayson returned in 2012 to the new 9th District. He departed in 2016 to run unsuccessfully for Senate, losing to then-Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) in the Democratic primary. Several weeks ago, Mr. Grayson filed a new congressional committee for the 11th CD, which would again pit him against Rep. Webster in a Republican district, but the conventional wisdom is suggesting that he will actually challenge freshman Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) for the seat he formerly represented.

HI-1: Former one-term US Rep. Charles Djou (R-Honolulu) was one of the individuals looking to enter the open 1st Congressional District race now that incumbent Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) is challenging Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary. In an announcement earlier this week, Mr. Djou said he will not become a congressional candidate in 2018, preferring to launch another run for Mayor of Honolulu in the 2020 election.

MA-7: Last month, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley launched her Democratic primary challenge to veteran Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville). The MassInc Polling Group, surveying the 7th District Democratic primary electorate for WBUR Public Radio in Boston (2/9-11; 402 MA-7 registered voters) found Rep. Capuano jumping out to an early 47-35% advantage when counting respondents who support and lean toward each candidate. Both individuals are highly rated. Rep. Capuano has a 60:7% favorability ratio, while Ms. Pressley scores a solid 42:7%. Ms. Pressley is carrying the Boston precincts, while the Congressman is overwhelming her outside of the state’s largest city. But, this race has a long way to go. The primary won’t happen until September 4th.

MN-8: Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) became the 54th US Representative to not seek re-election in the next special or regular election. The impending 2018 campaign was already viewed as a toss-up because the last two contests between Rep. Nolan and businessman Stewart Mills (R) were decided by a percentage point or less. With Mr. Mills not in the 2018 race, Republicans were looking to St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, a former professional hockey player. Now, however, Mr. Mills may return, and both parties can expect crowded nomination competition for an open seat that either side has a strong chance to win.

PA-18: Monmouth University released their latest study of the western Pennsylvania electorate with a month remaining in the 18th District special election campaign. According to the poll (2/12-14; 320 PA-18 likely special election voters), state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) would lead Democrat Conor Lamb across the turnout spectrum. His worst numbers based upon various turnout models was a 49-46% spread. In a separate occurrence, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) remained silent as to whether his committee will be supplying Lamb with further financial support. The special election is scheduled for March 13th.

UT-2: John Sittner, who founded the nationally known company, has filed a congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. Though he has not yet announced as an official candidate, he has certainly taken the first step toward becoming one. Mr. Sittner, registered as an Independent, hopes to challenge three-term Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Farmington/Salt Lake City) in the general election. President Trump carried the expansive 2nd District, 46-27% with Independent Evan McMillan receiving a substantial 21.5% of the vote.


Alabama: When the Alabama candidate filing closed at the end of last week, local political observers were surprised that state Sen. Slade Blackwell (R-Birmingham) did not file for re-election and instead hopped into the Governor’s primary at the last moment. Then, he apparently had second thoughts. Just four days after entering the Governor’s campaign, Sen. Blackwell announced he is ending his fledgling effort. Therefore, the state legislator will be out of elective politics beginning next year.

Kansas: Jeff Colyer (R), recently sworn in as Governor after former incumbent Sam Brownback (R) was confirmed to his federal position, this week replaced himself as Lt. Governor. Mr. Colyer named businessman Tracey Mann (R) as the state’s new LG, and further announced that the latter man will join him on the Republican ticket as his running mate for the fall election. The pair must first clinch the GOP nomination in an August 7th campaign when they will face Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, ex-state Sen. Jim Barnett, and oil businessman Wink Hartman among others. Democrats are looking to former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, ex-state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty, state House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita), or state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) to become their standard bearer.

Minnesota: Both former state House Speaker Paul Thissen and ex-St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced that they are dropping their respective bids for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The move means five candidates are left in the field, led by US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), and state Auditor Rebecca Otto. Local Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the 2014 Republican nominee, appears to be the GOP early leader, but that could quickly change if former Gov. Tim Pawlenty decides to enter this race. As previously reported, Mr. Pawlenty is holding meetings to assess his chances in a new statewide race. The former Governor St Louis, Missouriand short-term presidential candidate served as Minnesota’s chief executive from 2003-2011.

New Hampshire: In the 2016 open seat gubernatorial campaign, Republican Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern, 49-47%. Both men were members of the state’s five-member Executive Council that, among other duties, exercises a check over the Governor’s veto authority. Late this week, Mr. Van Ostern announced that he will not challenge Gov. Sununu in 2018. According to the latest survey from the University of New Hampshire, the first-term Governor was leading his former opponent, 41-31%.

New York: State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Geneva) ended his campaign for Governor. This leaves state Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) and Erie County Executive Joel Giambra as the lone contenders for the Republican nomination. Sen. DeFrancisco now becomes the favorite to advance into the general election, but an upset of two-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) appears highly unlikely.

South Dakota: A budding primary contest between at-large US Rep. Kristi Noem (R-Castlewood) and Attorney General Marty Jackley is underway culminating in a June 5th election, and Moore Information went into the Republican field to test the gubernatorial candidates. The survey (2/8; 300 SD likely Republican primary voters) found Ms. Noem opening with a 40-35% edge over the Attorney General. Two other candidates were tested, but neither could surpass 5% support. This first public data release suggests what most political observers have been saying: that the primary race will be close and hard fought. The eventual Republican nominee will become a prohibitive favorite to succeed Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) in the November election. Mr. Daugaard is ineligible to seek a third term.