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Period Ending February 23, 2018

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


Maryland: A new Goucher Poll (2/12-17; 800 MD adults; 658 MD registered voters) finds Sen. Ben Cardin (D) crushing convicted US spy Chelsea Manning in the upcoming June 26th Democratic primary. According to the Goucher data, Sen. Cardin begins the race with a 61-17% advantage, which is likely an insurmountable margin for the flawed challenger to overcome. Sen. Cardin is seen as a sure bet to be re-nominated and win a third term in the general election.

Mississippi: JMC Analytics & Polling surveyed the Mississippi Republican electorate to determine Sen. Roger Wicker's (R) strength for re-nomination. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who came close to upending Sen. Thad Cochran (R) in the 2014 nomination process, still has not ruled out running this year. JMC tested the Senator and Mr. McDaniel in their latest survey (2/15-17; 500 MS potential Republican primary voters) and found the incumbent leading his potential challenger, 38-20%. Though Sen. Wicker has a large lead among those decided, 42% reporting that they are undecided is a large number for a race involving a multi-term incumbent. Time, however, is running out. The candidate filing deadline is March 1st, in preparation for the June 5th primary election.

Tennessee: With early polling showing him faring poorly against Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) in the August Republican primary, former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) decided to end his statewide effort. In doing so, Mr. Fincher publicly encouraged Sen. Bob Corker (R) to run for re-election. The Senator, publicly reconsidering whether to reverse his retirement decision, promises to make an announcement about his future political plans very shortly.

WPA Intelligence, polling for the Defend the President PAC (2/13-15; 500 TN likely voters; 400 over-sample of Republican likely primary voters) finds Rep. Blackburn crushing Sen. Corker, 55-26%, in a head-to-head GOP contest. In terms of favorability, Sen. Corker scored an upside down 43:47% positive to negative rating among Republicans, while Rep. Blackburn recorded a 40:26% ratio. In an early general election pairing with presumed Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen (D), the state's former Governor and Nashville ex-Mayor, Ms. Blackburn seizes a 44-39% edge.


CA-25: A new ALG Research survey (2/11-15; 500 CA-25 likely jungle primary voters) finds Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) placing first in the upcoming June 5th jungle primary with 43% voter preference. Attorney Bryan Caforio (D), who lost to Mr. Knight 53-47% in the 2016 general election despite Hillary Clinton carrying the seat by almost seven percentage points, places second with 19%. Non-profit group executive Katie Hill (D) is next with 10%, followed by geologist Jess Phoenix (D) at 7 percent. Under California election law, the top two finishers regardless of political party affiliation advance to the general election.

CA-50: With Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine/San Diego County) under a FBI investigation for misuse of campaign funds, a new Republican candidate announced that he is entering the congressional campaign and will compete in the June jungle primary. El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells (R) is now in the race, obviously attempting to position himself in case the legal system soon strikes at Rep. Hunter. Four Democrats have declared, two of whom have raised more than $450,000. The 50th District is safely Republican, but that could change if Rep. Hunter soon faces a federal indictment. Retiring Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is a possible GOP candidate here, should Mr. Hunter not file. So is former San Diego City Councilman and ex-Mayoral and congressional candidate Carl DeMaio.

FL-17: On the heels of Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND-AL) eschewing re-election to challenge Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and becoming the 55th House member not to run for another term, Florida Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Okeechobee) added his name to the burgeoning retirement list with his announcement that he won't run for a sixth term. President Trump carried this district, 62-35% in the 2016 campaign, and Mr. Rooney has averaged 61.2% of the vote since the expansive central-south district was reconfigured in its present form. The Florida candidate filing deadline is not until May 4th in preparation for the August 28th primary election, so much time remains for political maneuvering in what should be a safe Republican district.

NJ-11: State Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-Boonton Township) announced this week that he will not enter the open northern New Jersey congressional race that House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) is vacating. Instead, Mr. Bucco endorsed fellow Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Parsippany). In another part of the district, however, investment banker Antony Ghee, with the support of key Republican Party leaders in Passaic and Essex County, announced that he would run. The 11th District race is expected to be hotly contested in November. Two Democrats appear as the leading candidates in their party primary. Attorney Mikie Sherrill and businesswoman Tamara Harris have each amassed a sizable campaign treasury.

ND-AL: With at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) reversing course and joining the Senate race, state Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton) has now also changed political direction. As expected, Mr. Campbell, who had been campaigning for the Senate nomination for the better part of a year, will now enter the open at-large House campaign, attempting to succeed Rep. Cramer. Former state Republican Party chairman Gary Emineth, who briefly became a Senate candidate before receiving information that Rep. Cramer would himself run, will not enter the open House race. The April state party endorsement convention will go a long way toward deciding who competes in the November open seat campaign.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court released its new congressional map and, as expected, legal challenges are already emerging. The Republicans are launching a federal lawsuit against this new draw in an attempt to attract the US Supreme Court's involvement. The high court failed to previously involve itself because the Democrats' lawsuit was filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution. Now that a different map has been set in place, a new set of legal challenges can begin. The Supreme Court has stayed similar recent redistricting cases in Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas, all awaiting a decision on the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, so Pennsylvania Republicans are launching a similar appeal in hopes of receiving similar consideration.

Ironically, two organizations that were prominent in urging the state Supreme Court to overturn the Pennsylvania congressional districts now also may file lawsuits over the replacement map. Representatives from both Common Cause and the NAACP are objecting to minorities being packed into one Philadelphia district when they currently have majority minority status in two under the invalidated plan.

The new map appears to have eight safe Republican and five clear Democratic districts. The remaining five seats are highly competitive, and each could become toss-up campaigns. The incumbents with the most difficult draws are Reps. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown), Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley), and Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/ Scranton). The new 7th District of retiring Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) is also a pure toss-up.


Kansas: Prominent oil businessman and former congressional candidate Wink Hartman (R) withdrew from the Republican gubernatorial primary yesterday and endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The two, and several others, are opposing new Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who replaced former Gov. Sam Brownback (R) who accepted a federal appointment. Mr. Hartman said he is leaving the race in order to help avoid splitting the primary vote that would allow Gov. Colyer to win the nomination with only plurality support.

Illinois: The Global Strategy Group conducted a new poll for venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker (2/9-13; 802 IL likely Democratic primary voters), who has already invested a reported $56 million into his gubernatorial campaign. According to these results, Mr. Pritzker holds a 37-23-21% lead over businessman Chris Kennedy, son of former Attorney General and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Chicago).

Afterward, Sen. Biss released his ALG Research survey (2/6-11; 500 IL likely Democratic primary voters), which presents results that aren't too different from Pritzker's release. According to ALG, Mr. Pritzker leads Sen. Biss and Mr. Kennedy, 32-24-24%. Thus, we have two candidate polls both showing the race getting tighter despite heavy spending from Pritzker, but with the leader maintaining a significant edge. The Illinois primary is March 20th, so this campaign is just entering the prime time phase.

Maryland: The same Goucher Poll cited above in the Maryland Senate section also tested the upcoming Governor's race. Incumbent Republican Larry Hogan, despite representing one of America's most Democratic states, still enjoys a strong 61% positive favorability rating. In the race for the Democratic nomination, three candidates are bunched near the top, but no one with clear strong support.

Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker is first with 19%, followed by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz who registers 12% backing. Trailing both is former NAACP president Ben Jealous at 10 percent. No other candidate even reaches the 4% plateau. Clearly, this Democratic primary contest is wide open.

Missouri: Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted on one felony count of invasion of privacy in relation to transmitting via a computer a non-consented upon photo of a partially nude woman with whom he was engaged in an extra-marital affair. If convicted, the Class E felony could carry a maximum four-year prison sentence. Gov. Greitens vows to fight the charge. His next court appearance is March 16th. If convicted or forced to resign as part of a plea bargain, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson (R) will assume the office. He would serve the balance of the term that will extend through 2020.

Texas: The Texas Tribune sponsored a primary election poll in anticipation of the state's first-in-the-nation midterm primary scheduled for March 6th. According to the survey (YouGov; 2/1-12; 1,200 TX adults; 633 modeled Republican primary voters; 517 modeled Democratic primary voters; an over-sample of 424 confirmed primary voters were added to the respective party samples; weighted sampling universe), Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has opened a 43-24% lead over businessman Andrew White, son of former Gov. Mark White, in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The winner faces an uphill battle against first-term incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R).