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Period Ending March 20, 2020

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

President

March 17th: Voters in three states cast their ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination yesterday, and former Vice President Joe Biden easily won in Florida (62-23%) and Illinois (59-26%), while his victory percentage dipped to 44-31% in Arizona. In the delegate count, largely because of his huge landslide in Florida, Mr. Biden captured approximately 66% of the available delegates last night, putting him on a clear course to win the party nomination on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention in July. Ohio, which was also supposed to vote yesterday, postponed its primary because of COVID-19 precautions. It will likely now be scheduled for June 2nd.

Joe Biden: In last Sunday's debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President and presumed 2020 nominee Joe Biden committed to choosing a woman as his running mate. Therefore, the speculation about just which woman will be chosen can now begin in earnest. Early betting surrounds either Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) or former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams.

Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced yesterday that he will move the state's stand-alone presidential primary from April 28th to June 2nd. The Connecticut presidential vote is not likely to make a difference either at the end of April or in early June. With former Vice President Joe Biden already effectively clinching the nomination, many of the late primaries will be pro forma. Connecticut has 60 bound first ballot delegates.

Georgia: Georgia election officials have moved their stand-alone March 24th presidential primary to May 19th, the date of the regular Georgia state primary. They say it is a response to the COVID-19 virus, but with the Democratic race being all but over, it made little sense to hold two statewide elections within three weeks of one another.

Louisiana and North Dakota: Election officials in Louisiana announced on Friday that the April 4th presidential primary has been postponed to a future date in response to the COVID-19 virus. No subsequent date has yet been decided. The North Dakota Democratic Party has also announced that next weekend's state party convention has also been postponed to an uncertain future date.

Senate

Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced this week that the state will move the Alabama runoff elections for affected races from March 31st all the way to July 14th as a result of COVID-19 precautions. The move may help former US Attorney General and ex-Senator Jeff Sessions rebound in his Republican runoff race with retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville. Placing a close second to Tuberville in the March 3rd primary, Mr. Sessions has been consistently trailing in the most recent polling. The runoff decision also affects the Republican and Democratic runoffs in open Congressional District 1, and the GOP secondary election in open Congressional District 2.

While a series of polls have projected retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville as having a definitive lead over former US Attorney General and ex-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions in the Republican runoff election, a group of organizations announced their support for the latter man. Eagle Forum, the National Rifle Association, and the Alabama Forestry Association all publicly declared their support for Mr. Sessions. The runoff winner faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in November.

Arizona: Univision and Arizona State University is out with an online poll (3/3-4; 1,036 AZ registered voters) that finds retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) opening up a twelve-point, 48-36%, lead over appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) for the coming special election later this year. Almost 50% of the polling sample (502 of 1,036) are Latino voters, however, thereby skewing the sample Democratic. Other pollsters, while showing a Kelly lead, project a much closer split. The Arizona Hispanic population is 31.6% according to the latest US Census estimates. Among Hispanics in this poll, Kelly leads 56-20%. White voters favor Kelly 46-42%.

Colorado: Former Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign announced mid-week that their candidate has officially qualified for the Colorado primary ballot via the signature route. Therefore, Mr. Hickenlooper, somewhat surprisingly, said he will not participate in the Democratic state convention. Conversely, his principle primary opponent, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, will attempt to qualify through the convention process. The eventual Democratic nominee faces Sen. Cory Gardner (R) in the fall campaign.

Georgia: The Atlanta Journal Constitution released a statewide Georgia Democratic primary poll where first term Sen. David Perdue (R) is seeking re-election. According to the survey (3/4-14; 807 GA likely Democratic primary voters), journalist and former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff leads the field of seven candidates with 29% preference. Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson is second with 15% just barely ahead of 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico who posted 14% support. The Georgia primary is May 19th.

Illinois: Because Ohio postponed its vote, Illinois is the only one of the March 17th voting states to hold its full statewide primary. While Sen. Dick Durbin was unopposed in the Democratic primary, Republican voters chose former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran to challenge the incumbent in the general election. Mr. Curran defeated a field of four other GOP candidates with slightly under 42% of the vote. The Illinois general election is not expected to be competitive, however, as Sen. Durbin is projected to cruise to a fifth term in November.

Montana: Gov. Steve Bullock (D) filed to challenge Sen. Steve Daines (R) on the final day of the candidate qualifying (March 9) and is already in a dead heat race with the incumbent according to the first published poll of the new contest. Public Policy Polling, surveying for the progressive left group, End Citizens United (3/12-13; 903 MT registered voters) finds the two statewide elected officials tied at 47% apiece. Sen. Daines has a favorability ratio of 45:42% favorable to unfavorable, while Gov. Bullock's numbers are a slightly better 49:40%. Consistent with the others, President Trump's job approval is 50:46%.

House

California: With still approximately a half-million votes remaining to be counted in California's laborious post-election verification and tabulation system at the beginning of this week, two more congressional district finalists have been declared.

In Orange County's 45th District, freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) will officially face Mission Viejo City Councilman Greg Raths (R) in what promises to be a competitive race. In San Diego County's 53rd CD, a double-Democrat general election will occur to replace retiring Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego). It has been determined that San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez (D) has clinched the second general election ballot position, and she and former State Department official Sara Jacobs (D) will vie for the seat in November.

FL-15: Freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover/Lakeland), who is under investigation over certain loans provided to his 2018 campaigns, transactions that the Congressman admits may have been mistakes, has now attracted a serious Republican primary challenger. Late this week, Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin, a retired Navy aviator, announced his congressional campaign. The Florida primary in August 18th and we can expect this particular race to become competitive.

IL-3: Veteran eight-term Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) failed in his bid for re-nomination yesterday, as the 3rd District Democratic electorate chose a candidate to his left, media consultant Marie Newman. The challenger was victorious 47-45% over incumbent Lipinski, a margin of 2,365 votes with almost all precincts reporting. In 2018, Newman fell three points short of victory but was able to turn the tide in this election. She will be a lock to win the general election in November.

Rep. Lipinski is the first incumbent to lose re-nomination so far this year. Ms. Newman outspent the incumbent approximately $2 million to $1.5 million from their respective campaign accounts. It appears another $3 million was spent from outside organizations, but the support/oppose ratio is unclear at this writing.

Illinois: With the Illinois primary now in the books, it is clear that rancher Mary Miller (R) will succeed retiring Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) in the sprawling 15th District. Ms. Miller, in spending only about $300,000, rode to a 57.5% victory against three other Republican candidates. She will now face Mattoon School Board member Erika Weaver in a district that will overwhelmingly favor the GOP (Trump '16: 71%).

Elsewhere, former state Representative and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives (R) will challenge freshman Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove) and frequent candidate Jim Oberweis, now a state Senator, won the crowded field Republican nomination to oppose freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) in the general election. Both Democratic incumbents are favored to win re-election. We will also see a strong re-match as Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan was an easy winner in her primary race. She will again oppose Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) in a downstate 13th District campaign that was decided by less than a full percentage point in 2018.

IA-1: Freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) unseated two-term Rep. Rod Blum (R) in 2018 and she can expect a tough re-election battle in the fall. Republicans were successful in recruiting their top prospect to make the challenge, state Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion) who is a former television news anchor. A new Public Opinion Strategies survey for the National Republican Congressional Committee (3/3-5; 400 IA-1 likely general election voters) finds the race already becoming tight. The ballot test finds Rep. Finkenauer clinging to only a 45-44% lead.

MT-AL: The Public Policy Polling survey mentioned above (see MT-Senate) also tested the open at-large congressional district that most likely will feature State Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) and former state Rep. Kathleen Williams (D). Both have partisan primaries to be decided on June 2nd, but each is expected to become the respective standard bearer. The PPP numbers find Mr. Rosendale and Ms. Williams to be locked in a toss-up open seat campaign. According to the poll results, the two are deadlocked at 45% apiece.

Both Mr. Rosendale and Ms. Williams were in competitive 2018 races. The former lost to Sen. Jon Tester (D), 50-47%, while Ms. Williams fell to at-large Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) 51-46%. This year, Mr. Gianforte is running for Governor, hence the congressional seat becoming an open race.

TX-2: Though Navy veteran Elisa Cardnell had qualified for the Democratic run-off in order to face freshman Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston), she has already conceded the party nomination to opponent Sima Ladjevardian and has requested that the Texas Secretary of State remove her name from the May 26th runoff ballot. Ms. Cardnell's action is within the legal withdrawal period, so there will be no Democratic runoff in this district and Ms. Ladjevardian, an attorney and campaign advisor to former Congressman and presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, becomes Mr. Crenshaw's opponent in November.

TX-17: The Texas Republican runoff in the state's 17th CD moves forward, and former Congressman Pete Sessions, attempting a comeback in a new district in returning to his boyhood home of Waco, received the endorsement of businessman George Hindman, the third place finisher in the March 3rd primary. Mr. Sessions placed first with 32% of the vote followed by businesswoman Renee Swann, who is endorsed by outgoing Congressman Bill Flores (R-Bryan/College Station). She recorded 19% preference, as compared to Mr. Hindman's 18% support. Combined with Sessions' percentage, the two would equal a majority. The Texas runoff is May 26th. The GOP nominee becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election.