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Period Ending February 3, 2017

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

President

President Trump’s nomination of Colorado US Appellate Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on United States Supreme Court occurred early in the week, as we know. The action is igniting a hard charging and controversial confirmation process that will divide along party lines. Watch in particular the ten in-cycle Democratic Senators from states that President Trump carried in the November election. Sens. Bill Nelson (FL), Joe Donnelly (IN), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Sherrod Brown (OH), Bob Casey Jr. (PA), Joe Manchin (WV), and Tammy Baldwin (WI) will become the focal points of this likely record-setting confirmation battle.

Senate

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) appears to have dodged one primary challenger bullet. After last week saying he was considering launching a campaign against Flake in the regular 2018 election, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) announced that he will not run statewide next year. Instead, he will seek re-election to a fifth term in the House.

Indiana: Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) publicly ended speculation that she will enter the statewide race to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly (D). Rep. Brooks will not run for the Senate, but two of her colleagues may. Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) appears to be actively readying for a statewide effort, and western state Congressman Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/ Lafayette) confirmed this week that he is also considering launching a Senate challenge.

House

CA-32: Rumors again abound that 80-year-old Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) will retire. She decided late in the last election cycle to seek a tenth term in office, and apparently she is again contemplating whether or not to seek re-election. Adding more fuel to the retirement fire, former Napolitano staff member Mary Ann Lutz (D), the former Mayor of Monrovia, California, says she is preparing to run for Congress in the event that her former boss does not opt for another term.

FL-13: With defeated Rep. David Jolly (R) already indicating he’d like to seek a re-match with freshman Representative and former Governor Charlie Crist (D), St. Pete Polls ran a quick survey of the Pinellas County district. The poll (1/30; 1,289 FL-13 registered voters through automated device) finds Crist leading Jolly 49-41%. In the November election, Mr. Crist scored a 52-48% win in a district that the court ordered mid-decade redistricting plan customized for him. With the post-election poll still being within high single-digits, another Jolly run here may well come to fruition.

KS-3: With Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) now out of the open 2018 Governor’s race, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park/Kansas City) is reportedly seriously considering entering the contest. Mr. Yoder just scored a 10-point re-election victory in the lone Kansas district that Hillary Clinton carried, so his political capital is high. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt are all potential Republican gubernatorial candidates, so we can expect a crowded and hotly contested primary battle here next year.

MN-2: Former healthcare company executive Angie Craig (D), favored in the 2016 congressional election and outspent her opponent by almost a 4:1 ratio but still lost, is reportedly considering forcing a re-match with freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury/ Burnsville). The 2nd District is a southeastern Minneapolis suburban district that had shown signs of trending Democratic. Thus, veteran Rep. John Kline’s (R) retirement led to an open seat that most expected to flip. But, former radio talk show host Lewis surprised most with his two and one-half point victory over Craig, running just ahead of Donald Trump who carried the district with a 46-45% margin. Despite the electorate’s marginal vote tallies, the 2nd District has remained in Republican hands for nine consecutive terms.

MN-8: Businessman Stewart Mills (R) has lost two consecutive congressional races to Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) by margins of half a percentage point (2016) and one point (2014). He, too, is reportedly considering making another attempt next year. The 8th has traditionally been a Democratic seat, electing a Republican for only one term since 1946, but the numbers are changing. Donald Trump scored a whopping 54-39% win here against Hillary Clinton, thus making it a bit surprising that Mills failed to come through on his coattails considering his close margin two years prior.

MT-AL: Moore Information just released an internal poll (1/18-19; 500 MT likely special election voters) for former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte, the presumed leading candidate to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) when the latter is confirmed as Interior Secretary. Mr. Gianforte would lead state Rep. Amanda Curtis (D), who was the party’s 2014 US Senate nominee, 47-33%. Against Deputy US Attorney Zeno Baucus (D), the Gianforte spread grows to 45-29%. Democrats were dealt a blow when the perceived strongest candidate, former state School Superintendent and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau (D), said she will not enter the special election campaign.

SC-5: Just like in Montana, the Palmetto State Republicans received a major break. In the impending special election once Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) is confirmed as Office of Management & Budget director, the Democrats have lost their strongest potential candidate. State Senator Vincent Sheheen, who twice became the party’s gubernatorial nominee and held former Gov. Nikki Haley (R) to only a four-point statewide win in 2010, closed the door this week on entering the special congressional election campaign, preferring to remain in the state legislature. Now, more than ever, the eventual Republican nominee will become a heavy favorite to replace Mr. Mulvaney.

Governor

Georgia: Some Democratic Party activists are apparently beginning to rally around the idea of Sally Yates, recently deposed as Acting Attorney General for defying President Trump’s immigration Executive Order, entering the open 2018 gubernatorial campaign. It will be interesting to see whether a Yates potential candidacy gains legs, or if her bout with Trump represents her “15 minutes of fame.” In any event, the eventual Republican nominee will be favored to hold the Governorship. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Ohio: Tarrance and Associates, for the American Freedom Builders conservative group, conducted a survey of the Ohio GOP electorate (1/23-26; 800 OH likely Republican primary voters) and finds Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine opening up a healthy lead. According to the results, Mr. DeWine scores 47% support among the Republican sampling group, followed by Secretary of State Jon Husted at 18%, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor with 10%, while Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) posts only 4% support. If the race were just between DeWine and Husted, the Attorney General would hold a 55-26% advantage. Only Mr. DeWine is an announced gubernatorial candidate. Mr. Husted appears to be a sure entry. Lt. Gov. Taylor has not yet made the decision to run, while Rep. Renacci is unlikely to become a statewide candidate.