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Period Ending March 24, 2017

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

Senate

Indiana: Two key happenings occurred this week in the impending 2018 Indiana Senate campaign. First, freshman Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City/Ft. Wayne) says he will not enter the statewide race to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) next year. Though he never seemed to be serious about immediately leaving the House to run for the Senate, Mr. Banks had not closed the door on the idea until this week. On the other hand, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg) took a definitive step toward running. This week, the Congressman announced the formation of a statewide finance committee, a clear prelude to actually entering the Senate contest.

House

CA-49: The closest House election in the country last November occurred in this San Diego and Orange County district (a 1,621-vote margin). Normally a Republican seat, the region is trending more Democratic, and certainly lined up against President Trump (Clinton: 51; Trump: 43%). The 2016 Democratic nominee, who came close to unseating the incumbent, retired Marine Corps Colonel Doug Applegate, released a new Strategies 360 poll that he recently commissioned. The survey (3/14-15; 405 likely June 2018 primary voters) produces unsurprising results, but Mr. Applegate’s purpose in running a poll at this point is not to position himself against incumbent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), but against a new Democratic candidate, wealthy attorney Mike Levin. The polling finds Rep. Issa leading the field with 43%, followed closely by Mr. Applegate at 39%. Mr. Levin, with little to no name identification at this point in time, follows with 9 percent. Under California’s jungle primary system, the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the general election.

FL-7: After freshman Democrat Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) unseated veteran Rep. John Mica (R-Winter Park) last year, Republican leaders have been looking hard for a strong 2018 challenger. One of their top choices was state Rep. Bob Cortes (R), but he announced this week that he will remain in the legislature. Once the GOP secures a strong candidate, central Florida’s 7th District will again become a political hotbed.

GA-6: A new Clout Research poll (3/15-16; 625 GA-6 likely special election voters) finds Democratic investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff developing a clear lead against the large field of candidates vying to advance from the jungle primary election scheduled for April 18. According to this data, Mr. Ossoff captures 41% support, followed by both former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) and businessman and local city councilman Bob Gray (R) who both maintain 16% preference. There are 18 candidates on the ballot, but Clout listed only six Republicans and two Democrats as options. Even with that, the combined Republican selections mounted to 48% versus 44% for the two Democrats. If no one receives a majority vote in the first election, which is almost a certainty, the top two finishers will advance to a June 20 run-off. This poll seems to suggest that Mr. Ossoff will be one of those moving to the second round of voting.

NV-2: 2010 Republican U.S. Senate nominee Sharron Angle, who came within five points of Sen. Harry Reid (D) after leading in polling right up to Election Day, announced a GOP primary challenge to Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) this week. Ms. Angle also ran for Senate in 2016, being blown out at the hands of then-Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) on a 65-23% count. Mr. Heck would then lose the general election to former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) in a close result. With Ms. Angle losing support with each race that she now enters, Rep. Amodei will not likely be heavily challenged. He should have little trouble securing re-nomination for a fifth term.

Governor

Colorado: Two weeks ago former U.S. Interior Secretary and Senator Ken Salazar (D) indicated he was considering entering the open 2018 race for Governor. This week he announced he will not return to elective politics. The open candidate field is slow in forming for both parties, as former state Sen. Mike Johnston (D) and ex-state Rep. Victor Mitchell (R) appear to be the most prominent announced respective party candidates at this time. All eyes now turn to U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) who has been considering the race. Without Mr. Salazar entering, the chances of a Perlmutter gubernatorial candidacy increase, and late indications from the Congressman’s camp suggest that he will enter the statewide race.

Maryland: Prominent Baltimore Democratic attorney Jim Shea formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee earlier in the week. Though Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) approval numbers are very strong, the Free State’s Democratic nature means the Republican Governor will face a highly competitive opponent. Gov. Hogan is favored for re-election, but he won’t have an easy ride toward a second term.

Minnesota: Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who barely survived re-election with just a 50.3% victory margin, is a virtual lock to soon enter the open 2018 Governor’s race. Mr. Walz is all but confirming that he will become a statewide candidate. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is ineligible to seek a third term. The eventual Democratic nominee will certainly begin as the favorite to win the race, at least in the early going.

Ohio: Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) joined the expanding gubernatorial field of candidates this week. The move had been speculated upon for months. Mr. Renacci was elected to the House in 2010, and will risk his seat to battle Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Attorney General and former U.S .Senator Mike DeWine, and most likely Secretary of State Jon Husted for the Republican nomination. Ironically, headlining the Democratic field at this point in the cycle is former Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley), whom Rep. Renacci defeated in 2012 when redistricting paired the two in one district. Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. This will be one of the most important gubernatorial campaigns in the country.