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Period Ending March 3, 2017

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

Senate

Wisconsin: Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, still a registered Democrat despite being included in hypothetical Republican Senate polls, said last night that he will not challenge Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) next year. Conservatives have been urging Mr. Clarke to enter the race. He becomes the second high-profile potential candidate to decline, with Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) being the other. This leaves the candidate prospect list with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald residing at the top but neither have committed to run, either. Wisconsin is one of the key Republican Senate state targets for 2018. Gov. Scott Walker (R) is expected to seek a third term. President Trump scored a surprising 47-46% win here, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R) defied all the polls in prevailing over former Sen. Russ Feingold (D), 50-47%.

House

GA-6: So far, this special congressional election has been projected as the most competitive of the five such electoral contests now underway and recent developments underscore this prediction. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, largely from national online contributions, has already raised more than $1 million for his campaign effort. Now, the Congressional Leadership Fund, associated with Speaker Paul Ryan, is committing over $1.1 million to a TV advertising buy in order to counter the Ossoff spending. The ads will directly attack Ossoff while the multi-candidate primary, to be settled April 18, is being contested.

IA-3: Former investment company CEO Mike Sherzan, who garnered 35% of the Democratic congressional primary vote in 2016, announced that he will again enter the race to challenge sophomore Rep. David Young (R-Van Meter/Des Moines). Sherzan lost the party primary to Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer who would go on to lose a 40-53% decision to Rep. Young. Sherzan spent over $830,000 of his own money in the 2016 race, raising less than $60,000 from other people.

KS-3: Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park) this week went a long way toward ending speculation that he will enter the open Governor’s race next year. Mr. Yoder told Kansas City area reporters that he intends to seek a fifth term from his House seat in 2018. Meanwhile, Yoder’s 2016 opponent, businessman Jay Sidie (D) who lost 51-41% in a result many thought would be much closer, is expressing interest in seeking a re-match next year.

MN-8: Businessman Stewart Mills (R), who has lost two consecutive close elections to Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) – the last one by just half a percentage point – is considering running for a third time. The political equation here may greatly change if Rep. Nolan decides to run for Governor. The Congressman has made several public comments acknowledging that he is considering entering the open statewide contest. Though Mills came very close in 2016, many observers consider the finish an under-performance for the two-time Republican nominee. The support for such an analysis cites President Trump carrying the district by almost 17 percentage points.

MT-AL: Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) won confirmation as US Interior Secretary and immediately resigned from Congress this week. Gov. Steve Bullock (D) scheduled May 25th for the at-large special replacement election. The recognized political parties will meet in convention to choose their nominees. Democrats have already scheduled their caucus for this Sunday, March 5th, at which point they will produce a nominee. Eight candidates have expressed a desire for nomination, including state Rep. Amanda Curtis, the party’s 2014 US Senate nominee. State Rep. Kelly McCarthy is the only other elected official in the field of candidates. The Republicans will convene on Monday. Businessman Greg Gianforte, the 2016 gubernatorial nominee who held Gov. Bullock to only a 50-46% re-election win, is the early favorite for the Republican nomination and the seat itself.

Governor

Connecticut: Gov. Dan Malloy could be receiving a Democratic primary challenge. The Governor has not yet committed to running for a third term, but Middletown Mayor Dan Drew (D) has already filed a gubernatorial exploratory committee. Mr. Drew says he is not necessarily challenging Gov. Malloy, but Connecticut’s campaign finance laws are restrictive to the point of forcing early entries into political contests. It is unclear if Malloy will run and also unclear whether Drew is only waiting for an open seat contest. Mr. Malloy’s approval ratings are among the worst for any Governor.

Florida: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) ended speculation that he would run for Governor next year by announcing that he will enter the race. Gov. Rick Scott (R) is ineligible to seek a third term, so we can expect competitive primaries in both parties. Expected to run for the Democrats are former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), and possibly ex-Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter). For Republicans, Agriculture Commissioner and former Congressman Adam Putnam seems to have jumped into an early lead but an eventual crowded field is expected to form.

Minnesota: In November, Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) survived one of the closest re-elections in the country with a bare 50.3% win. Now, Mr. Walz is openly contemplating entering the open Governor’s contest. Already in the Democratic primary are State Auditor Rebecca Otto, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and state Rep. Erin Murphy. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Attorney General Lori Swanson, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak are all possible Democratic contenders. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Ohio: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown) announced he will not enter the open Governor’s campaign this week, again repeating a familiar pattern. Since his first federal election victory in 2002, Mr. Ryan has been mentioned as a potential U.S. Senate, Governor, and Lt. Governor candidate, but each time backs away and remains in his safe congressional seat. Upon Ryan’s announcement, state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D) announced that he will run for Governor. Former Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Barberton) is now expected to also enter the race. State Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley are also potential Democratic contenders along with federal Consumer Financial Protection Board director and ex-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray. The announced Republican candidates are Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine. Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to run for a third term.

Oregon: Secretary of State and former gubernatorial candidate Dennis Richardson (R) ended speculation that he would challenge Gov. Kate Brown (D) next year. Mr. Richardson announced that he will not run for Governor and will instead remain in his current position. He next faces the voters in 2020. Mr. Richardson then stated his belief that state Rep. Knute Buehler (R) would be a strong gubernatorial candidate. Rep. Buehler has not yet formally announced his candidacy, but is making strong moves to prepare for the statewide contest.

South Dakota: Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) is now all but officially a gubernatorial candidate. Though he has yet to make a public declaration, his social media sites now feature “Jackley for Governor” messages. Mr. Jackley entering the open gubernatorial campaign, which had been expected, sets up a major primary battle between he and announced candidate Kristi Noem, the state’s at-large Representative in Congress. Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. The eventual Republican nominee will be a heavy general election favorite.

Tennessee: The Democrats now have their first officially announced gubernatorial candidate in the person of former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) being ineligible to run for a third term is setting up a competitive gubernatorial election cycle. Most of the action will be on the Republican side, and much depends upon whether or not Sen. Bob Corker (R) decides to forego a third term in the Senate in order to run for Governor. Assuming the Senator stays put, the Republican field is expected to be crowded affair. Expect Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) to run for either Governor or the Senate seat, depending upon which of the two falls open.