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Period Ending March 10, 2017

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

Senate

Florida: Two polls were released this week as a prelude to a possible Sen. Bill Nelson (D) vs. Gov. Rick Scott (R) 2018 US Senate contest, and both showed approximately the same results. The University of Northern Florida, in a survey of questionable methodology because the pollsters did not reveal whether the sample group was composed of adults, registered voters, or those likely to participate in 2018, (2/16-26; 935 “completed surveys”), and Mason-Dixon Polling & Research (3/2-3; 625 FL registered voters) found Sen. Nelson leading the Governor by just beyond the margin of polling error. UNF sees Nelson’s advantage to be 44-38%, while Mason-Dixon projects 46-41%. Sen. Nelson has indicated he will seek a fourth term in 2018. Gov. Scott is ineligible to seek a third term as Governor and has publicly disclosed he is considering running for the Senate.

Mississippi: State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who came close to upsetting Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican nomination battle – he lost 51-49% after forcing Cochran to a run-off – is reportedly considering a primary challenge to Sen. Roger Wicker (R). McDaniel has expressed disappointment with Wicker and the other GOP members of the Mississippi delegation for “being silent instead of championing conservative reform in D.C.” After losing the Senate nomination, Sen. McDaniel was re-elected to his post in the state legislature one year later. He was considering launching a primary challenge to Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Biloxi), but did not pursue such a race. Still, considering McDaniel did so well against Sen. Cochran, this race should be closely monitored.

Missouri: State Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) confirmed that he will not challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year. The Missouri Senator is viewed to be one of the more vulnerable Democrats seeking re-election in 2018, but as yet the Republicans do not have an announced candidate.

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) tells media sources that he “currently” plans to seek re-election to an eighth term in the Senate. During the 2012 campaign, Sen. Hatch indicated that he would retire once that term was completed, but he has apparently changed course. His office spokesman was less definitive saying, "Senator Hatch appreciates the encouragement he's receiving to run for re-election. While he has not made a final decision about his plans for 2018, he has made plans thus far to ensure all options remain on the table." Sen. Hatch, 82, is the eighth longest serving US Senator in history, and the top Republican in longevity. He was originally elected in 1976.

House

CA-25: While Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) won a 53-47% re-election victory, Hillary Clinton was carrying the 25th District by seven-plus percentage points. This likely means the Congressman will be a more serious Democratic target next year. This week, a new Democratic candidate already came to the forefront. Katie Hill (D), the executive director of the homeless advocacy non-profit association, PUSH, announced that she will run. Attorney Bryan Caforio, the 2016 nominee who attracted 47% of the vote, is likely to seek a re-match.

CA-49: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) won the closest election in the country last November, taking only 50.3% of the vote. Hillary Clinton sweeping the 49th by eight percentage points after the constituency had long supported Republicans in the presidential contest largely explains the shifting political tone in this San Diego/Orange County district. This week, environmental attorney Mike Levin (D) said he will enter next year’s congressional contest. He will join 2016 nominee Doug Applegate (D), the retired Marine Colonel who came so very close to toppling Issa, in the field of challenger candidates.

GA-6: The Trafalgar Group conducted a new survey for the upcoming special election (3/2-3; 450+ GA-6 likely special election voters) and found no clear favorite. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) were in a virtual tie, with businessman and local city councilman Bob Gray about five points behind. Combined, however, 45% of the sampling group chose a Republican candidate versus just 21% who voiced preference for a Democrat. Eighteen candidates, including 11 Republicans are on the April 18 jungle primary ballot. Assuming no one takes a majority of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a June 20 special general vote.

MT-AL: The major parties met in convention earlier in the week and chose their special election nominees. Former Rep. Ryan Zinke’s (R-Whitefish) confirmation as US Interior Secretary created the vacancy in the state’s lone congressional district. Gov. Steve Bullock (D) scheduled May 25 for the at-large special replacement election.

As expected, the GOP delegates chose businessman Greg Gianforte, the 2016 gubernatorial nominee who held Gov. Bullock to a 50-46% re-election win. Mr. Gianforte claimed to have enough delegate support to clinch a first-ballot victory, and such proved true. Democrats, however, produced a surprise nominee. Instead of going for state Rep. Amanda Curtis, the party’s 2014 US Senate nominee, the delegates reached for country rock singer Rob Quist, a local Montanan who is well known in Rocky Mountain music circles. In post-convention interviews, most Democratic delegates simply believed that Quist is the more electable candidate, hence their choice. This special election will likely be more interesting than originally believed now that Mr. Quist is in the race, but Greg Gianforte is still the clear favorite to win in late May.

Governor

Colorado: Former Interior Secretary and US Senator Ken Salazar (D) confirms that he is considering entering the open Colorado Governor’s race next year. Though not being present on the Colorado ballot since 2004, the Salazar name is still strong in the Centennial State so he will be a strong figure particularly in the Democratic primary. Ken Salazar’s brother, John, was elected to the US House during the same election that the former won his Senate seat. But, Republican Scott Tipton ousted Rep. Salazar six years later. Prior to his election to the Senate, Ken Salazar served as Colorado Attorney General.

Florida: After speculation was growing that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D) would enter the open Governor’s race, such talk came to an abrupt end this week. Citing the difficulty in raising millions of dollars to compete statewide, Mayor Buckhorn announced that he will not become a gubernatorial candidate.

New Hampshire: Just elected in 2016, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) already needs to begin gearing up for his re-election. New Hampshire is one of just two states (neighboring Vermont is the other) that hold gubernatorial elections every two years. Democrats are speculating that Attorney General Joe Foster (D), who leaves office at the end of March, is a potential Sununu opponent. In New Hampshire, Attorneys General are appointed by Governors and serve definitive terms. Gov. Sununu won a close 49-47% victory over former Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern (D). It is also possible that Mr. Van Ostern seeks a re-match.

Ohio: Former Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley) announced her candidacy for Governor during the week. She joins state Senate Minority Joe Schiavoni in the fledgling Democratic primary. For the Republicans, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine are officially in the race. This will be one of the most important gubernatorial campaigns in the country next year. Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to run for a third term.

Tennessee: Former state Economic and Community Development commissioner and businessman Randy Boyd (R) announced that he will enter the open race for Governor next year. Mr. Boyd has the ability to self-fund his campaign, but will likely expand his fundraising and grassroots effort way beyond himself. He joins state Sen. Mark Green as the only two announced GOP candidates, but many more are expected to follow. Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean is the lone Democratic entry so far.

Mayor

Los Angeles: Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) won re-election to a second term earlier this week, sweeping back into office with an 80% victory opposite little serious opposition. Since the Mayor’s race will be moved to run concurrently with the mid-term election cycle, Mr. Garcetti is granted a five and one-half year term. He will be ineligible to seek re-election in 2022, however. He is considered a potential gubernatorial candidate, so now that re-election is behind him we may see Mayor Garcetti move toward a statewide campaign.

St. Louis: City Alderman Lyda Krewson eked out a close 32-30% win over city Treasurer Tishaura Jones (D) to clinch the Democratic Mayoral nomination for the fall campaign. Ms. Krewson was able to build a strong coalition among whites, as the majority African American population segment divided their votes among three candidates. With no run-off in the St. Louis electoral system, Ms. Krewson has likely won the post. Republicans nominated utility executive Andrew Jones, but the general election will likely be just a pro forma affair in this highly Democratic city.