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Period Ending March 25, 2016

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


March 22: Earlier this week, primary and caucus voters in Arizona, Utah, Idaho, and American Samoa, took their turns casting ballots. As we know from extensive media coverage, Donald Trump easily won the Arizona Winner-Take-All primary and its 58 Republican delegates. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) countered in Utah, capturing a backdoor Winner-Take-All 40 delegates with his 70% win percentage. Under Utah rules, if a candidate exceeds 50% of the statewide vote, the formula converts to Winner-Take-All instead of recognizing a 15% vote threshold.

The American Samoa delegation will enter the Republican National Convention as an unbound delegation, meaning their nine delegates will have the ability to vote for whom they want on all roll calls. To win the Republican nomination on the first ballot, Mr. Trump would have to secure approximately 55% of the remaining bound delegate votes. Sen. Cruz would have to win more than 86% of the available delegates. Should neither reach their respective victory percentages, a multi-ballot contested convention could result.

For the Democrats, despite a strong Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) win in Utah and Idaho where he approached 80% of the vote in both places, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Arizona win continues to pave the way for her winning the Democratic presidential nomination in Philadelphia at the party national convention four months from now. According to The New York Times, the updated Democratic bound and unbound delegate count favors Ms. Clinton 1,690 to 946. The winner must commit 2,383 votes when the primaries and caucuses end on June 7.


California: The Public Policy Institute of California (3/6-15; 1,710 CA adults) sponsored a new survey of the open jungle primary Senate contest coming on June 7. Democrats hope to qualify two of their candidates for the general election, something that can happen under the top-two jungle primary system that the state employs. According to this poll, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), the race favorite, leads the candidate pack with 26%, while Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-46) follows in second place with 17%. Though the preference percentages are low, it is important to remember that a whopping 34 candidates have qualified for ballot placement in the June election. Therefore, the first two positions will likely attract a much lower-than-normal percentage.

Florida: We can now firmly scratch Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2) from the list of potential Senate Democratic candidates. The freshman Congresswoman, a clear victim of the court-mandated redistricting plan, had not publicly ruled out running statewide in 2016. It is unlikely that she can win the new strongly Republican 2nd District, so her options for remaining in Congress might have expanded into a Senate run. Still, she remains coy about her future plans. Her father, however, took action this week. Former Senator and Governor Bob Graham (D) formally endorsed Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) for the Senate. His action signaled not only further Democratic establishment support for the Palm Beach County Representative in his bid to flip the open Florida Senate seat away from Republicans, but also silently ruling out his daughter as a candidate.

Nevada: From a new Morning Consult poll conducted for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation (3/16-22; 795 NV registered voters), Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV-3) continues to lead former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D), but his advantage is down to the slimmest of margins. According to this extensive Nevada political poll, though it only briefly touched upon the open Senate race, Heck’s edge is 33-32%.

North Carolina: Public Policy Polling (3/18-20; 343 NC registered voters) released its first post-statewide primary survey and it suggests a close general election Senate race despite Democrats filing what most analysts regard as a second-tier candidate in former state Rep. Deborah Ross. According to the new PPP data, Sen. Richard Burr (R) has only a 40-35% lead over the ex-Raleigh state legislator. North Carolinians’ penchant for unseating its US senators can never allow an incumbent of either party to feel safe, however. In fact, Sen. Burr, when he won re-election in 2010, was the first incumbent to secure a second term from his particular seat since the late Sen. Sam Ervin (D) won for the fourth time all the way back in 1968.

Pennsylvania: A great deal of Senate Democratic polling has been released recently, and one more survey was added to the group during the past week. The new Franklin & Marshall College poll (3/14-20; 828 PA registered voters) confirms the other data that we’ve examined earlier this month. According to F&M, former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), the 2010 Democratic nominee who held Sen. Pat Toomey (R) to a 51-49% victory, continues to lead his primary for the right to seek a re-match. Here, Mr. Sestak holds a 21-12-8% advantage over ex-gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty (D), and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman.

Though the preference rate is lower than in most polls, something that seems to happen frequently in Franklin & Marshall studies, the margin among the candidates is consistent with the other available data. Sestak has an openly poor relationship with his own party leadership, to the point where they recruited McGinty into the race. Ms. McGinty, however, is apparently not the strongest choice. Running for Governor herself before becoming chief of staff to the eventual 2014 winner (businessman Tom Wolfe (D)), McGinty finished fourth of four Democratic candidates attracting only 8% of the party primary vote.


Population: The Census Bureau released its 2015 estimate data, and the states seeing the largest metropolitan growth areas are virtually the same as they were at the beginning of the decade: Texas, Florida, and South Carolina. Conversely, Cook County, Illinois, Wayne County, Michigan, and Cuyahoga County, Ohio actually lost population. The Census data is the determining factor for congressional reapportionment, the procedure that decides how many seats each state receives.

MI-10: Rep. Candice Miller (R), who early last year announced that she would not seek an eighth term in the House, is not retiring from politics. This week she announced her candidacy for Macomb County Public Works Commissioner, which has jurisdiction over the local water system. Republicans, after a competitive August primary, will keep her 10th Congressional District in the GOP column.

NC-2: Further clouding the Republican congressional primary in this post-redistricting seat, Tea Party activist Greg Brannon, who held Sen. Richard Burr (R) to a 61% re-nomination victory on March 15, announced that he will join the 2nd CD race to be decided June 7. The 2nd features the Republican incumbent pairing between Reps. George Holding (R-NC-13) and Renee Ellmers (R-NC-2). Also in the field of candidates is Club for Growth-backed candidate Jim Duncan who was running long before the federal court abruptly declared the 12th District illegal, which led to a wholesale redrawing of the congressional map last month.

NC-9: The court-mandated redistricting drastically changed several congressional districts, including what was the Charlotte based 9th District. Originally beginning in Mecklenburg County and then stretching northward up Interstate 77 almost to the city of Hickory, the new 9th now stretches southeast along the South Carolina border all the way to the city of Fayetteville. Incumbent Rep. Bob Pittenger (R) already announced that he will run in the new seat, but has drawn primary opposition. Union County Commissioner Todd Johnson (R), from a part of the district that is new to Rep. Pittenger, announced that he will enter the race. The legislature, after complying with the court order to redraw the districts, also moved the North Carolina congressional primary from March 15 to June 7.


North Carolina: In way of little surprise, the Public Policy Polling survey cited above (see North Carolina Senate) also tested the 2016 gubernatorial campaign. Polling has shown this race between Gov. Pat McCrory (R) and Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) as a tight contest for months, and this study is no exception. The ballot test returned a 42-40% split in Gov. McCrory’s favor.