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Period Ending February 9, 2018

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

Senate

Florida: A trio of polls was released during the week, all showing a close contest between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R). Florida Atlantic University (2/1-4; 750 FL registered voters; 375 on-line; 375 via automated telephone system) surprisingly finds Gov. Scott leading Sen. Nelson by ten percentage points, 44-34%, but this result seems unsubstantiated. The University of North Florida’s survey (1/29-2/4; 619 FL registered voters via live telephone interview) draws almost the opposite conclusion in finding Sen. Nelson ahead, 48-42%. Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy (1/30-2/1; 625 FL registered voters) places the two in a virtual dead heat, 45-44% in Nelson’s favor. Gov. Scott has not yet announced his candidacy, but it is clear that he will enter the race. This could become the nation’s premier Senate race.

House

AL-2: One-term Democratic US Rep. Bobby Bright, also a former Mayor of Montgomery, announced yesterday that he will challenge the woman who unseated him eight years ago, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery). This time, however, the two will do battle in the Republican primary. Mr. Bright, who had been an Independent prior to becoming a Democratic congressional candidate in 2008, has now switched to the Republicans as he attempts to make a political comeback eight years since his defeat for re-election. The state primary is June 5th. If no candidate secures a majority vote, the top two finishers will run-off on July 17th. The seat will remain Republican.

AZ-8: OH Predictive Insights again went into the field in Arizona, this time testing the AZ-8 special election. The poll (1/29; 400 AZ-8 likely Republican special primary election voters) finds the race largely developing into a two-way contest. According to the results, state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) and state Senator Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park) are tied at 21% apiece. Former state Rep. Phil Lovas places third with 12%, followed by former state Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump at 10 percent. The special primary election is February 27th, with the related general vote scheduled for April 24th. Republicans are heavy favorites to retain the seat.

HI-1: Several weeks ago, Attorney General Doug Chin announced that he would enter the open 1st District Democratic primary and that he would resign his appointed position in March. Now, he accepts the Lt. Governor’s appointment since incumbent Shan Tsutsui (D) resigned to take a position in the private sector. But, Mr. Chin will only serve on an interim basis and continue in his campaign for Congress. Gov. David Ige (D) first offered the Lt. Governor’s office to both state Senate President Ron Kouchi (D), and then state House Speaker Scott Saiki (D) but each declined to accept.

MN-1: Though Minnesota is not technically a convention state, most candidates abide by the pre-primary delegate endorsement process. State Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) said yesterday, however, that she will take the campaign to a primary regardless of the convention outcome. The action suggests she believes the party regulars will back 2016 nominee Jim Hagedorn, who scored 49.7% of the vote against Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato). The state conventions will occur in June. Any succeeding primary campaign will be decided on August 14th.

NE-2: Democrat Brad Ashford was elected to the US House in 2014, but Republican Don Bacon (R-Papillion) ousted him two years later. This year, Mr. Ashford is attempting his own political comeback. But, him winning the Democratic nomination may be more difficult that first thought. Non-profit executive Kara Eastman is showing some political strength. This week she received endorsements from Omaha City Council President Ben Gray and Douglas County Democratic County chair Crystal Rhodes, who is also a Nebraska Public Service Commissioner. The Nebraska primary is May 15th, and this one may be one to watch.

NJ-11: Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Parsippany) announced his congressional candidacy this week, in the seat from which House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) is retiring. Mr. Webber is quickly rounding up key party endorsements and support to the point that state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) was forced to the political sidelines. Now, it remains unclear as to whether state Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-Randolph) will enter the race. Late this week, rumors were beginning to swirl that former New York Jets’ Center Nick Mangold was about to become an 11th District candidate, but then he quickly announced that he would not run. Democrats feature two candidates who have done well on the fundraising circuit: attorney Mikie Sherrill and businesswoman Tamara Harris.

NY-19: Television actress Diane Neal, best known for her recurring appearances on the “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” program, announced that she will challenge freshman Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook) this year, but not as a Democrat. With already six Democrats in the race for the party nomination, Ms. Neal says she will run as an Independent, and could certainly compete for one of the many party ballot lines that New York features. The move could actually help Rep. Faso. Because Ms. Neal comes from the left of the ideological spectrum; therefore, a potential three-way race would likely split some of the liberal/libertarian/anti-Faso vote, which could allow him to win re-election with only a plurality.

NC-10: Chief Deputy Majority Whip Patrick McHenry (R-Lake Norman) is no stranger to repelling Republican primary challenges. He has defended himself in three consecutive primaries, and will do so again this May. Anti-Trump activist Gina Collias announced her candidacy this week, joining two other Republicans as intra-party challengers to the veteran Congressman. With a total of three Republicans on the ballot, Rep. McHenry should have an easy run for re-nomination. Under North Carolina election law, a candidate is nominated once he or she reaches just 40% of the vote in the first nomination election. The Tar Heel State primary is May 8th. If a run-off becomes necessary, it will occur on July 18th.

Pennsylvania: With Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf pledging to veto whatever the legislature presents to comply with the state Supreme Court striking down the PA congressional map as a political gerrymander, while the Justices already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw the map, it appears the judiciary is successfully usurping the legislature’s redistricting role.

Considering the state Supreme Court’s action, majority state House Republicans may soon be considering a motion to impeach some of the Justices. Sponsoring state Rep. Cris Dush (R-Punxsutawney) says the court’s redistricting ruling violates specific state constitutional articles relating to separation of powers among the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of the Pennsylvania state government. Since impeachment only requires a majority vote in the House to move to a Senate trial, this move appears more than symbolic.

TN-1: While nine standing committee chairman are not seeking re-election to the House this year, one who will is Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. Mr. Roe had been on retirement watch because he originally promised to limit himself to ten years in office, which will occur at the end of the present term. Yesterday, the veteran lawmaker confirmed, however, that he will seek a sixth term and is in strong political position. His biggest threat would likely come from another Republican, similar to how he unseated then-Rep. David Davis back in the 2008 GOP primary. At this point only retired Army Sergeant and Iraq War veteran Todd McKinley is an announced primary challenger. The candidate filing deadline is April 5th for the August 2nd state primary.

TX-2: Businesswoman and conservative activist Kathaleen Wall continues to make strides in her quest to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Poe (R-Atascocita/Humble) in the Houston suburbs. This week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) announced his endorsement of Ms. Wall’s campaign, following Gov. Greg Abbott (R) doing so in late January. The first-in-the-nation Texas primary is March 6th. If no candidate receives majority support, the top two finishers advance to a May 22nd run-off election. The eventual Republican nominee becomes a prohibitive favorite in the general election.

VA-10: The Virginia Democratic Party is not short on candidates to challenge two-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean), but they now have one fewer. Former Fairfax County educator and teachers’ union leader Kimberly Adams announced that she is ending her campaign. The Adams decision reduces the Democratic primary field to ten candidates. Whether others start to follow Ms. Adams’ lead because the number of competitors makes it difficult to gain significant political oxygen remains to be seen. Hillary Clinton carrying this district by almost ten percentage points suggests that this race will become a toss-up campaign once the Democrats settle on a nominee.

Governor

California: The Policy Analysis for California Education organization hired two pollsters, Tulchin Research, a Democratic firm, and Moore Information, a Republican counterpart to conduct their latest issue and political poll. Together, the firms surveyed the California electorate (1/21-28; 2,500 CA registered voters) with an extensive online poll that included a ballot test question about the upcoming open Governor’s campaign. According to the results, which were consistent with previous polling, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) leads the field of candidates with 29% of the jungle primary vote. In second place is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) who secured 11%, and is closely followed by Republican businessman John Cox at 10%.

The Public Policy Institute of California also ran an extensive statewide poll (1/21-30; 1,705 CA adult residents; 1,194 via cell phone, 511 on land lines), and presents a much different picture. For the jungle primary, the PPIC finds Lt. Gov. Newsom holding only a 23-21% lead over former Mayor Villaraigosa, with state Treasurer John Chiang in third place with 9% and Republican Assemblyman Trent Allen polling 8 percent. In California, the top two finishers in the primary election, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the general election.

Florida: Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy released a new Florida Governor’s survey (1/29-2/1; 500 FL Democratic primary voters; 500 FL Republican primary voters) to determine how the two partisan primary campaigns are currently unfolding. Though the filing deadline is May 4, the candidate fields seem to be relatively set for both parties. The Florida primary is not until August 28th.

According to the M-D data, a tight early race is forecast for both Democrats and Republicans, as will be the case for the general election. For the Dems, former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), the daughter of ex-Governor and US Senator Bob Graham (D), leads Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 20-17%. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum breaks into double-digits at 10%, and businessman Chris King lags behind with 4% support. On the GOP side, Agriculture Commissioner and former US Rep. Adam Putnam remains in first place, leading Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) by a 27-23% margin, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O’ Lakes/Pasco County) trailing at 7 percent. Gov. Rick Scott (R), a likely US Senate candidate, is ineligible to seek a third term.

Iowa: Selzer & Company, Iowa’s most prominent political pollster, released the results of their first survey of the upcoming gubernatorial contest featuring new Gov. Kim Reynolds (R). According to the poll (1/28-31; 801 Iowa adults; 555 likely voters), Gov. Reynolds leads all of her announced opponents, but by small, or relatively small, margins. Against state Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines), Ms. Reynolds edge is 41-37%. Her lead expands to 42-37% over wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell who has already been running television ads. Against former Obama Administration official John Norris, the margin grows to 41-30%, and 42-30% over former Iowa Democratic Party chairman Andy McGuire. Gov. Reynolds performs best against local union president Cathy Glasson (44-31%).

Minnesota: Former state House Speaker Paul Thissen announced yesterday that he is dropping his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The move means five candidates are left in the field, led by US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), state Auditor Rebecca Otto, and former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. 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 and short-term presidential candidate served as Minnesota’s chief executive from 2003-2011.