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Period Ending March 16, 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: According to a newly released Clearview Research poll (3/1-7; 750 FL likely voters), Gov. Rick Scott (R) has taken a 43-41% lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D) if the pair were to face each other in the impending US Senate race. Last week, an online Survey Monkey internet poll found the Senator owning a ten-point advantage. For his part, Gov. Scott has still yet to announce his Senate candidacy, but all political observers expect him to soon enter the race now that the legislature’s 60-day session has concluded.

Mississippi: Speculation continues to build about who Gov. Phil Bryant (R) will appoint to the Senate once exiting incumbent Thad Cochran (R) resigns on April 1st. While Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) appears to be the Governor’s first choice, signs point to him keeping his current position and entering the open 2019 gubernatorial campaign. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) was quoted over the weekend as saying that he will run for Lt. Governor, thereby seemingly taking himself out of consideration for the Senate appointment and lending more credence to the idea that Mr. Reeves will continue building an open seat gubernatorial campaign. Gov. Bryant is ineligible to seek a third term in the next regular state election.

Late in the week, Tea Party state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) announced that he is abandoning his challenge to incumbent Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in order to enter the new special election to replace Sen. Cochran. The special will run concurrently with the general election cycle. All candidates will first appear on the November 6th ballot. Should no candidate receive majority support, the top two would run-off on November 27th. The winner will serve through 2020, at which time he or she will be eligible to run for a full six-year term

Appointment speculation is now turning toward Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R). Mississippi is the only state to never have elected a woman to any of its congressional positions, so Gov. Bryant can begin a new path by appointing a Republican female. Additionally, Ms. Hyde-Smith has the reputation of being a strong campaigner, which is an attribute the Republican leadership wants to see in the appointed Senator.

New Jersey: The first New Jersey Senate race public poll release came this week when Quinnipiac University ventured forth with their new data (3/8-12; 1,052 NJ registered voters) testing Sen. Bob Menendez (D) and former Celgene Corporation CEO Bob Hugin (R). This is also the first political poll publicized since the Justice Department dropped federal bribery charges against Sen. Menendez. According to the poll, the two-term incumbent would lead the former pharmaceutical company chief, 49-32%, with Independents breaking for the Senator, 41-36%. Mr. Menendez begins the election cycle as the clear favorite for re-election.

Pennsylvania: The biggest surprise at the statewide candidate filing deadline was businessman Paul Addis not entering the Republican Senate primary despite having invested over $1.45 million into his campaign. Raising only $12,000+ from other individuals and seeing his anti-Trump attacks not catching fire with the Pennsylvania GOP electorate, Mr. Addis decided not to continue his campaign. The development cements US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) as the prohibitive favorite to win the GOP nomination in the May 15th primary. He now faces only state Rep. Jim Christiana (R-Monaca). Mr. Christiana had less than $20,000 in his campaign account according to his year-end Federal Election Commission disclosure filing.

Utah: Candidate filing also closed in Utah, and it is now clear that former presidential nominee and Massachusetts Governor won’t have a free ride in this year’s Republican primary. Though nine Republicans have announced their candidacies to oppose Romney, one individual with an electoral record has just stepped forward. State Rep. Mike Kennedy (R-Lindon), a practicing physician and three-term state Representative, announced his candidacy and will ostensibly oppose Mr. Romney. It is clear that Rep. Kennedy is his most substantial Republican opponent, but it is highly unlikely that he, or anyone else, will deny the former presidential candidate the Senate nomination. In the general election, his eventual opponent is likely to be Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (D). Mr. Romney is the prohibitive favorite to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R).

House

AZ-8: The next special congressional election, this one to replace resigned Rep. Trent Franks (R-Peoria), will be held on April 24th. With former state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) winning the special Republican primary on February 27th, she is the clear favorite to win the special general in what performs as a safe Republican seat. According to a new Lake Research poll (3/3-6; 400 AZ-8 likely special election voters), Ms. Lesko would lead her Democratic opponent, Scientific Review Officer Hiral Tipirneno (D), by a strong 48-34% margin.

CO-2: Former University of Colorado Regent Joe Neguse (D) comes a step closer to becoming the consensus Democrat to succeed Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder). Mr. Polis is leaving the House to run for Governor, leaving a safely Democratic open seat in his wake. This week, Nederland Mayor Kristopher Larsen announced that he is ending his congressional quest. Therefore, Mr. Neguse now only faces former Boulder County Democratic Party chairman Mark Williams in the Democratic primary. Winning the June party primary is tantamount to capturing the seat in November.

FL-13: Ex-US Rep. David Jolly (R-Pinellas County), who former Gov. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) defeated in 2016 after the Florida state Supreme Court handed down a new set of district lines that were unfavorable to a Republican candidate in this Tampa Bay area CD, has announced a decision about whether he will challenge his successor to a re-match. Mr. Jolly, who was constantly fighting with sectors of the Republican leadership, and then candidate Donald Trump during the presidential election, announced yesterday that he will not run in 2018. Even though he was the incumbent during the 2016 campaign, the National Republican Congressional Committee refused to invest financial resources into his campaign, thus dooming the Jolly re-election effort. With Mr. Jolly left on his own in what is now a Democratic district, the party-switching former Governor Crist won, 52-48%.

NJ-7: It appears that Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Clinton Township) now knows the identity of his next general opponent even though the Democratic primary here isn’t until June 5th. Bank executive Linda Weber (D) announced that she was dropping out of the congressional race, after losing the official Union County Democratic Party endorsement by a single vote to former Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski. Though at least three other announced Democratic candidates remain, Ms. Weber’s departure virtually cedes the party nomination to Mr. Malinowski. We can expect a highly competitive general election campaign here later in the year.

NY-11: Two polls were released that depict completely different political pictures of the impending Staten Island Republican primary battle between Rep. Dan Donovan and former Rep. Michael Grimm. According to a Barry Zeplowitz & Associates poll for the Donovan campaign (3/7; 400 NY-11 GOP primary voters), the Congressman would hold a whopping 60-21% advantage over the former US Representative who was only recently released from prison after his tax evasion conviction. But, a Big Dog Strategies survey (3/4-5; 446 likely NY-11 GOP primary voters) for the Grimm campaign finds the two candidates locked in a dead heat. According to these data, Rep. Donovan would cling to only a 35-34% edge over Mr. Grimm. The New York primary is June 26th. NY-11 is comprised of Staten Island and part of Brooklyn. It is the only Republican congressional district in New York City.

ND-AL: Former state Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks) announced that he will compete in the upcoming March 15-18 Democratic state Party Convention for the open at-large congressional district nomination. Delegates will vote to endorse a contender at that time. Most often, those not receiving the endorsement do not force a primary. State Sen. John Grabinger (D-Jamestown) and ex-state Rep. Ben Hanson (D-Fargo) are already in the Democratic race. The Republican endorsing convention will be held April 6-8. The seat recently came open when US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) announced his challenge to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).

Pennsylvania: The much watched Pennsylvania special election went to Democrat Conor Lamb, who scored a bare 627 unofficial vote victory over state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) earlier in the week. It is likely the turnout will exceed 230,000 voters when all votes are counted and the military and overseas ballots are added to the totals. Once all votes are added to the total, the Lamb victory margin will approximately be 500 votes, much less than polling projected.

Quickly, the focus will now turn to where Rep-Elect Lamb and Mr. Saccone will run in the general election. Mr. Saccone has already been circulating qualifying petitions in the new 14th District, the place where redistricting put 57% of the 18th District’s constituency. This seat is nine points more Republican than the current 18th, so Rep-Elect Lamb looks to be headed to the new 17th CD to challenge Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley). The 17th CD is a swing district much more favorable to a Democratic candidate, but it does mean Lamb will be forced to challenge a three-term incumbent with 56% constituent carry-over from his previous 12th District. Only 20% of the district that Lamb just won finds itself in new District 17.

PA-4: With redistricting creating an open Democratic 4th District in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, former US Rep. Joe Hoeffel (D) just filed a new campaign committee with the FEC and expects to soon announce his candidacy. Mr. Hoeffel was first elected to Montgomery County’s then-13th Congressional District in 1998 and served three terms before leaving to unsuccessfully challenge Sen. Arlen Specter (R) in the 2004 statewide election. Mr. Hoeffel would return to the Montgomery County Commission in a 2007 election, and then competed for the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He retired from elective politics in 2012. Already in the campaign are state Reps. Mary Jo Daley (D-Narbeth) and Madeleine Dean (D-Abington), along with gun control activist Shira Goodman.

Governor

Maryland: A new Burton Research & Strategies survey (3/4-8; 10-11; 600 MD registered voters) finds Gov. Larry Hogan (R) expanding his previously published polling leads over Democrats Rushern Baker and Kevin Kamenetz. When paired with Mr. Baker, the Prince Georges County Executive, Gov. Hogan scores a 50-29% major advantage. If Mr. Kamenetz, the Baltimore County Executive, were his opponent the Governor’s margin grows to an even larger 57-26%. Though Mr. Hogan’s approval numbers are among the strongest of all state chief executives, Maryland’s Democratic voting legacy will eventually make the general election a close affair. While seven other Democrats are in the gubernatorial race, including former NAACP President Ben Jealous, the Burton group only released numbers associated with Messrs. Baker and Kamenetz.