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Period Ending February 8, 2019

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

President

Sen. Cory Booker: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker announced as promised that he is joining the Democratic presidential field. Though he also in-cycle for re-election to the Senate in 2020, a new state law will allow him to run simultaneously for both offices. Therefore, he is not risking his current position to enter the national fray.

Iowa Poll: The Emerson College Polling Institute (1/30-2/2; 831 IA registered voters; 260 IA likely caucus attenders) tested the Democratic field for the Iowa Caucuses one year from now, and the results project former Vice President Joe Biden to be holding the lead with 29% support. Fresh from her announcement tour, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is second at 18%, followed closely by Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who claims 15% preference. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was next with 11%, and the last of the candidates to register double-digits.

In the second tier are former Texas US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) at 6%, two points ahead of New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. All others finish with 3% or less. Turning to individual Iowa general election pairings with President Trump, only Mr. Biden finishes ahead of the incumbent, and even here the margin is a slight 51-49%. If Starbucks former CEO Howard Schultz was included as an Independent candidate, Mr. Trump's margin with his Democratic opponent expands in each situation.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Another US Senator is set to enter the 2020 presidential contest. Reports suggest that Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will officially enter the Democratic contest this weekend. She will join fellow Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who have either announced their candidacy or formed an exploratory committee. Sen. Klobuchar will be the first candidate from the Midwest. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is a possible contender but has yet to make any kind of formal announcement.

Senate

Alabama: Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in the 2017 special election, facetiously says he would run again next year, but only if President Trump asked and would endorse him. Since Rep. Brooks was a known critic of Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign and pummeled with his own statements about the President during the special election, Mr. Brooks ever receiving such a presidential request is highly unlikely. The Alabama Senate race featuring incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D) will be hotly contested next November.

Kansas: Despite US Secretary of State and former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita) repeatedly saying he is not running for retiring Sen. Pat Roberts' (R) open seat, rumors and conjecture continue to be put forth that he will change his mind. It is clear that a Pompeo candidacy would likely put the seat safely in the Republican column since he has the best chance to bridge the internal Republican gap between the conservatives and moderates, hence state party leaders' interest in seeing him run.

South Carolina: Former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jamie Harrison has filed an exploratory committee for a US Senate run. At this point, most of the potential candidates are Republican looking to attempt to deny Sen. Graham re-nomination, which is his greatest threat. None of the candidates appear strong, though former gubernatorial candidate and Greenville businessman John Warren (R) lurks in the wings continuing to be mentioned as a potential candidate. At this point, Sen. Graham looks strong for re-nomination and re-election.

House

CA-25: Former Rep. Steve Knight (R), who lost his seat in November to freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale), says he is highly unlikely to run again. He said he would reconsider only if "something happens that is very weird."

CO-6: It's quite likely that former US Representative Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) will not be making a congressional comeback attempt against new Congressman Jason Crow (D-Aurora). Over the weekend, Mr. Coffman announced that he will run for Mayor of Aurora later this year in the city's municipal elections.

GA-7: Five-term Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election next year. The Congressman barely won in November, scratching out a 419 vote victory over former state Senate committee staff director Carolyn Bourdeaux (D).

Immediately upon hearing the Woodall declaration, Ms. Bourdeaux made a public statement saying she intends to run again. Already in the Democratic primary are 2018 congressional candidate and chain store business owner David Kim, and attorney Marqus Cole. A large number of Republicans, including several current and former state legislators, are expected to enter the newly open seat GOP primary.

IA-4: The fallout from recent comments Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron/Sioux City) uttered perceived to be racially divisive continues. After the House Republican leadership stripped Rep. King of his committee assignments, state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull) announced a 2020 Republican primary challenge against the nine-term Congressman, as did Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor, and former Irwin Mayor Bret Richards. Now, talk suggests that Siouxland Chamber of Commerce president Chris McGowan may also become a GOP primary candidate.

Michigan Redistricting: The plaintiffs and defendant in the Michigan congressional and state legislative redistricting legal challenge looked to have arrived at a pre-trial solution, but the federal judge hearing the case refused to accept the so-called compromise. Because the suggested settlement was crafted between the Democratic plaintiffs and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the judge ruled that she does not have the legal standing to negotiate or accept terms. And, the fact that the solution was negotiated by Democrats on both sides of the legal battle also prompted the judge to question the settlement. As a result, the Michigan case will head to trial.

This controversy may be mute, however. The US Supreme Court looks to issue potential landmark redistricting rulings before the end of June on cases from Maryland and North Carolina pertaining to both racial and political gerrymandering. Therefore, final disposition of the Michigan case at the district level, should a decision come before the federal high panel acts, may be quickly superseded.

NE-2: Former Rep. Brad Ashford's (D-Omaha) wife, Ann Ferlic Ashford, announced yesterday that she will enter the Democratic congressional primary in hopes of challenging two-term Republican incumbent Don Bacon (R-Papillion) next year. Ms. Ashford almost ran in 2018, but the two agreed that her husband would attempt to regain the seat he lost to Mr. Bacon, a retired Air Force General. Ashford then proceeded to lose the Democratic primary to non-profit organization executive Kara Eastman, who would then lose in a close 51-49% result to Rep. Bacon.

Ms. Ashford, however, will also face Ms. Eastman. The latter woman has already announced that she is running in 2020, hoping to force a re-match with the Congressman. Mr. Ashford, also a former state legislator, served one term in the House before he was unseated during the last presidential election.

NJ-11: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he believes his wife, Mary Pat Christie, would make an excellent challenger to freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-Montclair/Morristown). Ms. Sherrill is one of the more successful Democratic freshmen and will not be an easy target despite NJ-11 previously being a Republican district. For her part, Mrs. Christie has yet to make any public statement about possibly running for Congress.

NM-2: An early 2020 political survey finds 2018 GOP congressional nominee Yvette Herrell (R) jumping out to a large 51-38% lead over freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces). The Strategy Group Company conducted the poll (1/23-27; 1,070 NM-2 likely voters; 537 likely Republican primary voters), but the general election result appears unrealistic. Having access only to the ballot test and not the underlying numbers, it is difficult to believe a freshman House member who had just defeated Ms. Herrell 51-49% in November would already be falling 13 percentage points behind.

In the Republican primary, Ms. Herrell, an ex-state Representative, leads former Secretary of State candidate Gavin Clarkson, energy company executive Claire Chase, and former Fresno, CA City Councilman Chris Mathys, 50-7-4-2%. Since Ms. Herrell is the most recent former Republican nominee in this district, her being this far ahead in the GOP primary is believable. New Mexico's 2nd District will again be a battleground race in 2020.

NY-11: As expected, state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Brooklyn/Staten Island) announced that she will challenge freshman Rep. Max Rose (D-Staten Island) next year. Mr. Rose unseated Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island) in November on a 52-46% count.

Ms. Malliotakis is reportedly the National Republican Congressional Committee's first choice to run against Rep. Rose, but first she will likely tangle with former Congressman and convicted felon Michael Grimm in the Republican primary. Mr. Grimm says he intends to run again. After returning from serving his prison sentence for tax evasion, he challenged Rep. Donovan and lost the primary in a 63-37% landslide.

NC-9: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) finally appointed five members to the State Elections Board, and now the new panel is about to begin considering the suspended 9th Congressional District contest that still remains without a certified winner. The three Democrats and two Republicans who now comprise the State Board of Elections panel were chosen from a group put forth by leaders from both major parties.

The NCSEB will meet on February 18th to hold a hearing about the NC-9 result that has been halted due to voter fraud allegations. The seat remains vacant in the new House of Representatives. The most likely solution is to schedule a new election.

PA-12: Significant speculation was occurring that former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton), defeated in the 2018 Pennsylvania US Senate race, might attempt a congressional comeback by entering the special election to replace resigned Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport). Mr. Barletta's previous 11th District contained about 11% of the new 12th District's constituency.

Over the weekend, Mr. Barletta ended such talk by announcing that he would not become a candidate in the soon-to-be-scheduled special Republican convention that will choose a nominee for the May 21st special election. In the race are GOP state Reps. Fred Keller and Jeff Wheeland. College professor Marc Friedenberg is the lone announced Democrat. The Republicans are favored to retain the district. President Trump carried the seat with a 66-30% margin in 2016.

Governor

Mississippi: The Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy organization conducted a statewide poll of the ensuing open Governor's race (1/30-2/1; 625 MS registered voters) and find Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood leading GOP Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves by a 44-42% margin suggesting a hotly contested race for the fall. AG Hood, elected four times to his current position, is one of the most successful Democrats in the entire Deep South. Since M-D began polling this race in December of 2017, Mr. Reeves has closed the gap by a net four percentage points.

Utah: The Hinckley Institute for Politics at the University of Utah and the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper conducted a statewide survey of Republican voters to test the candidates vying to succeed retiring Gov. Gary Herbert (R). The poll (1/15-24; 311 UT registered GOP voters) projects Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox barely leading former Rep. Jason Chaffetz. The results find Cox holding only a 28-27% lead over Mr. Chaffetz. Following is Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Brigham City) with 10%, and Attorney General Sean Reyes, and ex-state House Speaker Greg Hughes trailing with 4% apiece.

West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice, who was elected in 2016 as a Democrat but has since changed parties, looks to be facing his first Republican primary. Former state Delegate Mike Folk (R-Berkeley County) announced that he will challenge the Governor in next year's Republican primary. Because Mr. Justice has never run on the Republican ballot, he could potentially become vulnerable in a GOP primary. Whether Mr. Folk has the political wherewithal to upset Gov. Justice or becomes a stalking horse for another candidate is a subject of conjecture.