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Period Ending March 23, 2018

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

Senate

California: The Public Policy Institute of California went into the field again with a major statewide survey (3/4-13; 1,706 CA adults) to test residents’ attitudes about issues and candidates. Looking at their new US Senate data, it is clear that the state is again headed for a double-Democratic general election. According to the jungle primary question, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) leads state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) by a 42-16% margin with no prominent Republican candidate on the ballot.

Mississippi: Gov. Phil Bryant (R) announced that he will appoint Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) before the veteran incumbent actually leaves office. With state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) already declaring that he will become a candidate in the special election and not continue with his plan to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker in the Republican primary, Gov. Bryant says he wants the new Senator to have as much time as possible to begin preparing a campaign. Sen. Cochran says he will resign after the appropriations process is completed on or around April 1st.

Upon Ms. Hyde-Smith being sworn in at some point in April, will then run for the seat in November. All candidates will be placed on the November ballot with the top two advancing to a November 27th run-off election if no candidate receives majority support. The winner then serves the balance of the term, meaning he or she will be eligible to run for a full six-year term in 2020. Already, state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) has announced for the special election. He came close to upsetting Sen. Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary. Former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi US Congressman Mike Espy declared his candidacy on the Democratic side.

Montana: We now see a slate of official Republican Senate candidates in the Montana race hoping to oppose two-term incumbent Jon Tester (D), as the candidate filing period drew to a close. As expected, state Auditor Matt Rosendale, former District Judge Russell Fagg, state Sen. Al Olszewski (R-Flathead Valley), and businessman Troy Downing all submitted the candidate declaration documents. The June 5th Republican primary winner will face Sen. Tester who is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Sen. Tester is favored for re-election and just began his preliminary media advertising blitz last week.

Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller (R) now faces only minor opposition for the upcoming June 12th Republican primary. Businessman and frequent political candidate Danny Tarkanian, adhering to a public request from President Trump to exit the race, did so. Instead, Mr. Tarkanian will enter the open 3rd Congressional District campaign. Back in 2016, he lost that race 47-46% against now-freshman Representative and current US Senate candidate Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson). Bypassing a seriously contested primary will now allow Sen. Heller to pool his resources and immediately concentrate on his general election campaign with Ms. Rosen. A Heller-Rosen general election contest is rated as a toss-up in what is proving to be a swing political state.

Ohio: Ohio-based Baldwin Wallace University released a poll of the upcoming Senate race (2/28-3/9; 1,011 OH registered voters), and they project Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) holding a 41-29% lead over Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth). If venture capitalist Mike Gibbons were the Republican nominee, Sen. Brown’s margin would be 41-31%.

The sampling period is long meaning the poll’s reliability factor is lessened, though the respondent universe size is strong. Additionally, the decided factor is a bit low considering that Sen. Brown is a two-term incumbent, which means more reliability questions. Rep. Renacci is favored to win the Republican nomination, and the general election figures to become highly competitive.:

West Virginia: Countering Rep. Evan Jenkins’ (R-Huntington) polling release that showed him leading the Republican primary race for the right to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D), Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) just went public with his own internal poll that shows very different results. According to his Osage Research survey (3/13; 500 WV likely Republican primary voters), it is Mr. Morrisey who has climbed into first place, leading former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and Rep. Jenkins, 24-23-17%. At the beginning of last week, Mr. Jenkins released his Harper Polling survey that found him leading with 29% support versus 27 for Mr. Blankenship, and 19% for Attorney General Morrisey. The Republican primary is May 8th and expects to become a testy affair.

House

Illinois: Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) managed to survive a very difficult primary challenge from media consultant Marie Newman. The Congressman was re-nominated for an eighth term with just 51% of the district vote. His stronger performance in Cook County allowed him to capture the district majority despite losing Will County and the sliver of DuPage County to Ms. Newman. Mr. Lipinski is one of the few remaining Blue Dog Democrats, while Ms. Newman came at him hard as part of the party’s left faction. Rep. Lipinski will have little trouble in winning the general election.

Other key congressional match-ups are now set. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton) will face climate change advocate and energy business owner Sean Casten (D) in the general election. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro/Carbondale) is paired with St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly (D) in two of the more competitive races in the state.

MT-AL: Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) was elected in a May special election that drew national attention. As candidate filing closed Friday in Big Sky Country, six Democrats officially entered the June 5th plurality primary contest to challenge the new Congressman in November. Among the half-dozen contenders are former state Sen. Lynda Moss, ex-state Rep. Kathleen Williams, and attorney and author Jared Pettinato. Rep. Gianforte is favored to win a full term in the 2018 election.

ND-AL: North Dakota Democratic state party delegates convened in Grand Forks during the week. Delegates awarded official party endorsements for their two federal offices on the ballot in 2018, and both winners have clinched the nomination. In no surprise, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) won endorsement for her re-election campaign. In the at-large House race, former state Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider (D-Grand Forks) topped the delegate vote, and his opponents then quickly followed suit to profess their support for the man who defeated them. With no further opposition coming for the June 5th primary, Mr. Schneider will become the Democratic congressional nominee.

Texas: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has taken sides in two Texas run-off elections. According to their new “Red to Blue” target campaign listing released at the end of this week, the Committee is recommending support of former Office of the US Trade Representative official Gina Ortiz Jones, in a May 22nd run-off election for the right to face Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) in November, and attorney and ex-NFL football player Colin Allred who wants to oppose veteran US Representative and Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-Dallas). Mr. Allred’s Democratic run-off opponent is businesswoman and former Deputy Agriculture Department Undersecretary Lillian Salerno.

TX-27: Over the weekend, the four Republican candidates who failed to qualify for the open GOP run-off election to replace retiring Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) – the group cumulatively garnered 30% of the vote in the March 6th primary - unanimously endorsed former Victoria County Republican Party chairman Michael Cloud in his May 22nd Republican run-off battle with former state Water Development Board chairman Bech Bruun. In the primary, Mr. Bruun placed first with 36.1% of the vote followed closely by Mr. Cloud’s 33.9 percent. Because of the close primary result, the secondary run-off election is rated as a toss-up so the united opponent endorsement development carries some significance.

UT-3: Newly elected Rep. John Curtis (R-Provo), who won a November special election to replace resigned Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R), will likely face primary competition against the man whom convention delegates endorsed in the special election. Former state Rep. Chris Herrod, who won the nominating convention endorsement last year, filed to run again. Because he will likely be strong in the nominating convention once more, Rep. Curtis is both participating in the convention process and announced he will circulate petitions to qualify. A candidate must receive at least 40% of the convention delegate vote to proceed to a primary. If one receives 60%, the individual is either nominated outright or advances to a primary election against only candidates who have qualified via ballot petition.

UT-4: The Mellman Group, polling for Democratic congressional candidate and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (2/27-3/4; 400 UT-4 likely voters), finds Rep. Mia Love’s (R-Saratoga Springs) campaign edge is only 43-40% if the general election were held in the present time frame. Several other polls have been conducted of the campaign over the past several weeks, with each projecting Love with a similarly small lead. We can expect this to be a competitive campaign in the fall, even considering Utah’s strong Republican voting history.

Governor

California: Looking at the Public Policy Institute of California’s survey for the Governor’s race (see California Senate above), Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) continues to hold a lead. The question is whether a Republican will qualify for the second general election position. According to the jungle primary ballot test question, Mr. Newsom has a 28-14% lead over businessman and former presidential candidate John Cox (R). Close behind is ex-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) at 12%. Republican state Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) is next with 10%. The big question is whether Villaraigosa can make a strong enough push to claim second place, which would enable him to battle Newsom in the general election. Republicans have virtually no chance of winning the statewide election.

Illinois: Gov. Bruce Rauner barely survived his Republican primary challenge earlier in the week, winning a scant 52-48% victory over state Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton). Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, who at least spent $65 million of his own money to capture the party nomination, won his primary with a 45-27-24% win over state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Chicago) and businessman Chris Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy. Despite Gov. Rauner being the incumbent, his poor primary performance reveals Republican base trouble thus making Pritzker the early favorite to convert the Illinois Governor’s mansion to the Democratic column.

New York: Cynthia Nixon, who came to fame playing the role of Miranda Hobbes in the HBO series, “Sex and the City,” announced on Monday that she will launch a campaign against Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the coming Democratic primary. Though this challenge is a long shot at best, Ms. Nixon will be hitting the Governor from his ideological left. She will likely have the ability to attract some national money, but the chances of her denying the Governor re-nomination are poor. But, the New York state primary isn’t until September, so this potential race has time to develop.