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Period Ending February 24, 2017

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

Senate

Michigan: Rock star and gun rights activist Ted Nugent confirms he is considering entering the Republican Senate primary next year. Though not currently living in Michigan, he is a native of the state. US Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) both admit to contemplating launching their own challenge to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), but neither has taken concrete steps toward organizing a statewide campaign apparatus.

Virginia: Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, received good news from a just-released Quinnipiac University poll (2/10-15; 989 VA registered voters). According to the data, Sen. Kaine leads radio talk show host Laura Ingraham (R), 56-36%, while performing just slightly better against former presidential and California US Senate candidate Carly Fiorina (R), 57-36%.

Wisconsin: On the heels of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) announcing that he won’t challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) next year, Magellan Strategies released a survey (2/19-16; 500 WI general election voters; two 300 sample likely Republican primary voters) that gives the first-term Democratic Senator significant political breathing room. Against Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke (tested as a Republican even though he is still a registered Democrat), Sen. Baldwin claims a 49-35% lead. She scored equally well against Rep. Duffy, but those numbers are now moot since the Congressman is not entering the statewide campaign. Sheriff Clarke, a strong gun rights activist and national conservative spokesman, has not yet said that he will run for Senate. Also reportedly considering the contest are Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and venture capitalist and former US Senate candidate Eric Hovde.

House

CA-34: Democratic candidate Sara Hernandez, a former Los Angeles City Council aide, released her internal Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, & Metz Associates poll (released 2/15; 500 CA-34 likely special election voters) that projects her to be trailing campaign leader Jimmy Gomez (D), a state Assemblyman, but in range to advance to the run-off. According to the data, Mr. Gomez, the establishment and labor organization favorite, attracts 20% support. Ms. Hernandez is a distant second with a 9% preference figure. No one else even reaches 6 percent. Twenty-three candidates, 19 Democrats, one Republican, and three Independents, will appear on the April 4 jungle primary ballot. The top two finishers, assuming no one reaches 50% support, advance to a June 6 run-off election. Democrats are a sure bet to hold the downtown Los Angeles open district. Incumbent Rep. Xavier Becerra (D) resigned the seat to accept Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) appointment as the state’s Attorney General.

GA-6: The first Georgia special election poll was released this week. Clout Research tested 694 registered voters over the February 17-18 period. They found Democratic investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff leading the pack of candidates with 32% preference. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) was next with 25%, and GOP businessman Bob Gray (R) was third with 11 percent. The poll was flawed in that it listed Ossoff as the lone Democratic candidate in the field against five Republicans. In actuality, five Democrats, including Ossoff and state Sen. Ron Slotin, filed, as did 11 Republicans. When adding all of those who chose a Republican candidate, the partisan break became 48-32% in the GOP’s favor. Democrats are making a stand here, and it is likely to be the most competitive of all the 2017 special election campaigns.

IA-1: Several Democratic candidates are beginning to swirl around sophomore Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque). State Rep. Abby Finkenauer is taking discernible steps toward entering the race, almost to the same degree as Linn County (Cedar Rapids) Supervisor Brent Oleson. Also stating that “all options are on the table,” in a response from a reporter about whether he, too, would enter the congressional race, state Sen. Jeff Danielson must also be considered a potential congressional candidate. The 1st is the most Democratic of Iowa’s four districts, but Mr. Blum won 50 and 54% victories here in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

KS-2: Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) took himself out of consideration as a candidate for the open 2nd Congressional District this week. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) announced her retirement last month. Mr. Kobach is rumored as more likely to enter the open gubernatorial campaign, and he has not closed the door on seeking that position or running for re-election to his current office.

MT-AL: Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte claims to have enough votes to win a special congressional election convention nomination after Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) is confirmed as US Interior Secretary, and his top opponent appears to have confirmed the reported vote count. Though not pleased to do so, state Senate President Scott Sales (R) dropped out of the congressional special election race even before it begins, and reluctantly admitted that Gianforte’s vote count is correct. If successful in the party convention, Mr. Gianforte will likely face state Representative and defeated US Senate candidate Amanda Curtis, who is expected to win the Democratic nominating convention.

Governor

Alabama: Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville confirmed that he is considering entering the Republican gubernatorial contest. The former Southeast Conference championship coach said he will make a final decision in the next few weeks after conducting research polling. Potential candidates are Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R), state Senate President Del Marsh (R), US Rep. and former gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, among others.

Colorado: It has been long surmised that Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) would become a candidate for Governor as soon as the post opened. With Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) ineligible to seek a third term, 2018 appears to be Perlmutter’s year. This week, the Congressman confirmed he is considering the race and will make a final decision in the coming weeks.

Florida: The Associated Industries of Florida conducted an open race gubernatorial poll involving the upcoming 2018 Republican primary. The survey (2/14-17; 800 FL likely Republican primary voters) tested issues and attitudes, but did ask a primary ballot test even though all candidates’ name identification is low. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam led the GOP group with 22% preference. State House Speaker Richard Corcoran was next, but with only 4% support with the vast majority of the Republican sampling group remaining as undecided.

Illinois: Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), one of many Democrats mentioned as potential opponents to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, says she will not run statewide in 2018 and will instead seek re-election to her western Illinois congressional seat. Ms. Bustos was originally elected to the House in 2012 after serving on the East Moline City Council.

Kansas: Last week, Wichita oil company CEO Wink Hartman became the second Republican to enter the open Governor’s race but now the two have company on the Democratic side. Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer announced this week that he will run for his party’s gubernatorial nomination. Mr. Brewer wants to take advantage of outgoing Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) negative image to restore the Democrats to power in the Sunflower State.

Florida: The Associated Industries of Florida conducted an open race gubernatorial poll involving the upcoming 2018 Republican primary. The survey (2/14-17; 800 FL likely Republican primary voters) tested issues and attitudes, but did ask a primary ballot test even though all candidates’ name identification is low. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam led the GOP group with 22% preference. State House Speaker Richard Corcoran was next, but with only 4% support with the vast majority of the Republican sampling group remaining as undecided.

Ohio: Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R) became the second Republican to file papers for what will be an open 2018 Ohio Governor’s race. Way back in May, Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine (R) confirmed that he will be a gubernatorial candidate. Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. The Ohio contest will be one of the most important gubernatorial races in the country.

Virginia: Quinnipiac University surveyed the 2017 open VA Governor’s race and reports largely good news for the Democratic candidates. The poll (2/10-15; 989 VA registered voters; 462 likely Democratic primary voters; 419 likely Republican primary voters) find both Democratic contenders Ralph Northam, the state’s Lt. Governor, and former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) leading presumed GOP front runner, former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie. Mr. Northam would lead Gillespie 41-35%, while Perriello maintains a slightly better 43-36% margin. But, the news is not all good for the Dems. Though the party establishment is clearly backing Northam, Perriello is becoming a major factor and has the ability to raise national money from the party’s national liberal activist voting and donating base. According to the Q-Poll, Perriello has already pulled into a tie with Northam, at 19% apiece among likely Democratic primary voters. For the Republicans, Mr. Gillespie has a strong lead over two lesser-known GOP candidates.

Wisconsin: Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) was first elected to the House in 1996 at the age of 33, but rumors again are swirling around him about running for another office. He acknowledges considering challenging Gov. Scott Walker (R) next year, but he is a long way from actually launching a campaign. Several other times during his 20 year career in Washington Mr. Kind’s name has been associated with a statewide run for either Senate or Governor, but he has backed away every time.