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Period Ending March 1, 2019

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

President

Gov. Jay Inslee: Reports coming from Washington State indicate that Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who formed a presidential exploratory committee in early January, will formally announce his campaign today. Gov. Inslee, by all accounts, is a minor presidential candidate who is unlikely to change the course of the race. He plans to make climate change is cornerstone issue, but it remains to be seen if he can catch fire to the point of catapulting into serious contention for the nomination.

New Hampshire Poll: Emerson College conducted a survey of New Hampshire Democratic voters just after neighboring Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) announced his presidential campaign. According to Emerson (2/21-22; 405 NH Democratic registered voters), Sen. Sanders has taken the lead over former Vice President Joe Biden, the first time any other Democratic candidate has led in a primary poll.

The results post Sen. Sanders to a 27-25% edge over Mr. Biden, with California Sen. Kamala Harris trailing at 12%. In another instance where Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren fails to reach double-digits, she scores just 9% in this neighboring state poll. Also, soon after announcing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) jumped to 8%, followed by ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), both tallying 5 percent.

Beto O'Rourke: The Dallas Morning News ran a story this week saying that former Rep. Beto O'Rourke has decided not to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and will instead soon announce his presidential campaign. O'Rourke told the news reporter that he and his wife will have a "decision about how we can best serve our country" and "are excited to share it with everyone soon."

Senate

Iowa: Former Iowa Governor and ex-US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (D) indicated last weekend that he will not challenge US Sen. Joni Ernst (R) next year. Mr. Vilsack served two terms as Iowa's Governor before going to Washington to serve in President Obama's cabinet for the entire tenure of his Administration. During her husband's time in Washington, Mr. Vilsack's wife, Christie Vilsack, unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron/Sioux City) in 2012, losing 53-45%.

With the former Governor disqualifying himself, it now appears that freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) becomes a recruitment objective for party leaders. Ms. Axne upset Rep. David Young (R-Van Meter) in November and is now a familiar figure in the state's largest media market. There is no word as to whether the Congresswoman is considering making a statewide move. Staying in the House will also lead to a competitive campaign, however, as Republicans plan to heavily target her 3rd District.

Kansas: Now that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has again said he will not enter the 2020 open seat Kansas Senate race, movement is beginning to occur. Before the Pompeo statement, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R) had already declared his candidacy. Previously, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) indicated that he would likely be moving toward the Senate race now that Mr. Pompeo is out. Yesterday, Attorney General Derek Smith (R) confirmed reports that he, too, is considering becoming a Senate candidate. State Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) is also indicating that she will enter the statewide contest.

New Hampshire: The aforementioned Emerson College poll (see New Hampshire Poll above) featured a ballot test question between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Gov. Chris Sununu (R). According to their large-sample poll (2/21-22; 910 NH registered voters), the two candidates would tie at 44% support.

Former state House Speaker Bill O'Brien, coming from the right faction of the New Hampshire Republican Party, confirms he is considering challenging Sen. Shaheen next year. The Senator has already announced that she will seek a third term. New Hampshire is a swing state, and one where the electorate moves wildly between elections. Therefore, any credible challenge to Sen. Shaheen must be viewed seriously.

House

AL-1: Because Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) has announced his US Senate campaign, the open 1st District is expected to draw a great deal of competition, particularly among Republicans. Yesterday, the first GOP candidate stepped up and announced his candidacy. Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl (R) says he will enter the open Republican primary, which should open the door for others to soon follow suit.

IA-4: Despite being publicly attacked for what many claim are white supremist comments and being stripped of his committee assignments as a result, Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron/Sioux City) says he will run for re-election next year. He was originally elected to the western Iowa seat in 2002 and has held the seat largely without major controversy until now. Already, state Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), former Irwin Mayor Bret Richards, and Woodbury County Supervisor Jeremy Taylor are announced Republican candidates.

Under Iowa election law, if no candidate receives 35% in a primary election, a district convention is then convened to choose a nominee. If a crowded field ultimately takes shape, Rep. King might have a chance of winning re-nomination with a plurality vote, or possibly prevailing in a convention. In 2018, Rep. King, as the current controversy was taking form, defeated Democrat JD Scholten, 50-46%.

NJ-11: Morris County Sheriff James Gannon, who Republican leaders hoped would challenge freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), says he will not run for Congress next year. Ms. Sherrill was impressive in her 2018 campaign, putting to bed early what had been a reliable Republican seat. Her political strength suggests that she will not be a top tier GOP conversion target in 2020, at least in the early going.

NC-3: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) set the schedule to fill the 3rd District seat left open by the recent death of Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville). The candidate filing deadline will be March 8th, with the partisan primaries scheduled for April 30th. If no candidate in any party receives 30% of the vote, a secondary runoff election will be held July 9th. Should all parties nominate on April 30th, the special general then would occupy the July 9th date. If a runoff is necessary, the special general won't be held until September 10th.

Seven Republicans have already announced their candidacies. Among them are three sitting state legislators: Reps. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), Phil Shepard (R-Jacksonville), and Michael Speciale (R-New Bern). The candidate group also includes 2016 and '18 GOP candidate Phil Law, who performed better than most experts projected in both of his primary elections against Rep. Jones, gubernatorial aide Jeff Moore, NC Republican Party Vice Chair Michele Nix, and accountant Sandy Smith. No major Democrat has yet declared his or her intention to run.

NC-9: Republican Mark Harris, who finished first in the November election but was denied certification due to election fraud allegations that continue to be investigated, announced that he will not compete in the newly ordered special election. This will allow the Republicans to choose a new nominee with a better ability to compete.

Mr. Harris' reputation was so badly tarnished during the post-election period in addition to his suffering recent health problems, led to the decision of not pursing the congressional seat in the special election. Mr. Harris endorsed Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing as part of his announcement. The NC Board of Elections is expected to schedule the election calendar on Monday.

PA-12: Central Pennsylvania Republican delegates will meet tomorrow in a special district convention to nominate a candidate to run in the May 21st special election to replace resigned Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport). A total of 24 individuals have petitioned the state Republican Party to become candidates. State Reps. Jeff Wheeland and Fred Keller appear to be the leading candidates. The winner faces Democrat Marc Friedenburg in the special general election. The GOP nominee will begin the campaign as a heavy favorite.

Governor

Indiana: Speculation has been swirling that defeated Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) might decide to challenge Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) next year. It appears Mr. Donnelly has now put such talk to bed. The ex-Senator and Representative told a Howey Political Report representative that he is fortunate to be teaching at Notre Dame University and is concentrating on "getting my snow blower going these days."

Mississippi: State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), a two-time former US Senate candidate, said publicly that he will not be filing as a candidate for Governor today. The open gubernatorial field appears set for Republicans with Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves leading former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr., while the Democrats feature Attorney General Jim Hood who is a heavy favorite over Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith.

This should be a competitive race in the fall despite Mississippi's strong Republican voting history. Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who has already endorsed Mr. Reeves as his successor, is ineligible to seek a third term. The Mississippi primary is scheduled for August 6th.