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Period Ending March 9, 2018

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


Mississippi: Sen. Thad Cochran (R) originally elected in 1978, and the 10th longest serving Senator in American history, announced that he will resign his seat on or about April 1st and retire from the Senate. Mr. Cochran issued a statement saying, "I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge. I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi…after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate." Upon the resignation becoming final, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) will appoint a replacement. This means another Senate seat will be added to the 2018 election cycle. Like Minnesota, Mississippi will have both of its Senators standing for election this year. The eventual election winner will then serve the balance of the current term. The seat next comes before the voters to decide a full six-year term in 2020.

Gov. Bryant unequivocally removed himself from consideration for the Senate seat, saying that there is "something nefarious" about making a move to appoint himself. There is yet no indication about who the Governor is definitively leaning toward, but Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann are rumored to be at the top of the prospective appointments list.

Texas Primary: Texas Republicans and Democrats went to the polls on Tuesday to conclude the first-in-the-nation midterm primary, and the incumbents in both parties had good nights. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R) both won re-nomination with victory percentages of 90 and 85, respectively. The Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and businessman Andrew White, will advance to a May 22nd run-off election. Sen. Cruz will face Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) in the general election as the latter man also scored an outright victory in his Democratic primary.

Virginia: According to a new Christopher Newport University survey (2/5-28; 1,562 VA registered voters), one US Senate state the Democrats won't have to worry about defending is Virginia. From their data, which appears to undercount minorities and seemingly fails to even segment the state's significant Asian population (6.6%), Sen. Tim Kaine (D) leads all prospective opponents with a 56-33 or 56-32% margin spread. Looking to the Republican field, Prince William County Board chairman Corey Stewart has a small 16-7-6% lead over former Lt. Governor nominee and pastor E.W. Jackson and state Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper).


CA-44: In 2016, then-Hermosa Beach City Councilwoman Nanette Barragan's victory over state Sen. Isadore Hall (D-Compton) in a double-Democratic general election was one of the top upsets of the last election cycle. Now, US Rep. Barragan seeks her second term. Previously, actress Stacey Dash had announced her candidacy as a Republican and is building a campaign in the heavily Democratic seat. Just before the candidate filing deadline, Compton Mayor Aja Brown (D filed a congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday and announced her candidacy, making for an interesting June 5th qualifying election.

CA-48: California's top-two primary system that allows members of the same party to advance into the general election may prove a major factor in Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's (R-Costa Mesa) Orange County coastal congressional district. Yesterday, former state Assemblyman and Orange County Republican Party chairman Scott Baugh (R) pulled nomination papers in order to qualify before today's candidate filing deadline. Mr. Baugh's presence in the race, assuming he completes the filing process, could create a situation where both Rep. Rohrabacher and he qualify for the general election. With the Democratic field split among ten candidates, none of who have ever successfully run for office, the state's primary system could conceivably deny the Democrats a potential target.

FL-27: The open South Florida district that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) is vacating drew two new candidates during the week. Former television news anchor Maria Elvira Salazar (R) joins songwriter and non-profit organization executive Angela Chirinos, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, and former Doral City Councilwoman Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera, among others vying for the GOP nomination. On the Democratic side, former Health and Human Services Secretary and ex-University of Miami president Donna Shalala announced that she will enter the Democratic primary. Should she be elected, Ms. Shalala, at 77 years of age, will become the second oldest freshman House member in history and is the ninth Democrat to enter the open seat race. The Florida primary is not until August 28th, so both sides have months of campaigning ahead of them.

IL-3: Public Policy Polling, surveying for NARAL Pro Choice America (2/27-28; 648 IL-3 likely Democratic primary voters) finds Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) leading his primary challenger, media consultant Marie Newman, but by only a slim 43-41% margin. Ms. Newman enjoys support from most of the national liberal ideological groups, and local Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston), but Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) backs the incumbent. Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders also announced his support of the Democratic challenger. An outside organization supporting Lipinski, called United for Progress, just opened with a six-figure negative ad campaign against Newman. The tactics used in this race could be a microcosm of what is to come in major Democratic primaries throughout the country. The primary is March 20th.

NV-4: Rumors are rampant that freshman Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas), who announced he would not seek a second term because of sexual harassment allegations, is seriously contemplating changing his mind. With the Nevada candidate filing deadline fast approaching on March 16th, we will soon know if such conjecture has any basis. Rep. Kihuen is not confirming nor denying that he may yet enter the race. Even if he does, however, neither his re-nomination nor re-election would be a given. Already, former US Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) has announced his candidacy, meaning a major Democratic primary would ensue if the tainted freshman decides to reverse course. Also in the race are Democratic state Senator Pat Spearman (D-Las Vegas) and two minor candidates.

In the general election, former US Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) has also decided to run again, ostensibly setting up a re-match of the 2014 Hardy-Horsford campaign that the Republican won. The 4th District was created in 2012 as a result of reapportionment awarding Nevada a new district, but the CD has yet to re-elect an incumbent. The electorate here will again see major political action regardless of Mr. Kihuen's political status.

NJ-2: Though GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor/Atlantic City) has held the southern New Jersey 2nd District for 24 consecutive years, the Republican leadership has had a difficult time recruiting a candidate. Moderate Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) currently appears to be in the driver's seat for both the party primary and the general election. This week, former state Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi announced he would seek the Republican nomination. Mr. Fiocchi was elected to the legislature in 2013, but defeated after one term in office. Therefore, it is unclear how strong he will be in this congressional race.

PA-8: Former federal prosecutor Jon Peters (R), who had been running to succeed Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) in the 11th District under the former congressional map, announced that he will run in the new northeastern 8th District. The new plan places his home in new District 12, but Mr. Peters said he would not oppose incumbent Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) in that CD. Assuming the new court-mandated plan will be the footprint for the 2018 elections, Mr. Peters will challenge businessman John Chrin in the Republican primary. Late last week, Mr. Chrin indicated he would also run in the 8th District instead of the new open 7th District. The eventual GOP nominee will challenge Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/Scranton) in a district that appears more favorably Republican than the open 7th. The 8th District general election will likely become hotly contested.

PA-18: A new Emerson College poll (3/1-3; 474 PA-18 likely special election voters) finds Democrat Conor Lamb leading Republican state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) by a 48-45% margin in a district that President Trump carried 58-39%, and for which resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) ran unopposed in the last two elections. But, Gravis Marketing (3/1-5; 911 PA-18 likely special election voters) finds Saccone leading 45-42%.

Regardless of who wins this election, a much different district will present itself if the new Pennsylvania district lines survive a Republican stay motion to the US Supreme Court. Less than 60% of the current territory will transfer to new district 14, with the remainder going to different southwestern Pennsylvania districts. A Democratic victory here would give the party a major boost in its bid to re-claim the House majority, while a loss in what normally performs as a safe seat would be devastating to the GOP.

Texas Primary: All 28 House members from both parties seeking re-election easily won re-nomination, with the lowest recorded incumbent winning percentage being Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson's (D-Dallas) 63.6%. The Congresswoman previously announced that the upcoming term will be her last. In the eight open House seats, all but three of the campaigns are advancing to a run-off election.

State Sen. Van Taylor (R-Plano) easily won outright the GOP nomination in the seat from which veteran Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Plano) is retiring. Turning to El Paso, County Judge (Executive) Veronica Escobar (D) also won outright the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. O'Rourke. She will have little trouble holding the seat for her party in the fall. Going southeast to Houston, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D) won the Democratic primary in the 29th CD, and she will come to Washington next year to replace retiring Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston).

Open seat run-offs will occur in Districts 2 (Houston; Rep. Ted Poe-R), 5 (Dallas; Rep. Jeb Hensarling-R), 6 (Arlington; Rep. Joe Barton-R), 21 (San Antonio; Rep. Lamar Smith-R), and 27 (Corpus Christi; Rep. Blake Farenthold-R). Same for Democratic challengers opposing Rep. John Culberson (R-Houston), Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), and Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-Dallas).


Colorado: Magellan Strategies, conducting an independent poll of the Colorado Republican gubernatorial primary (2/26-27; 647 likely Republican primary voters via automated telephonic device), finds state Treasurer Walker Stapleton taking the lead over Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and two others. According to the results, Mr. Stapleton holds 26% of the Republican primary vote, followed by AG Coffman's 13%. Investment banker Doug Robinson, nephew of former presidential nominee and current US Senate candidate Mitt Romney, has 8%, while former state Rep. Victor Mitchell (R-Castle Rock) registers 5% preference.

Rhode Island: Polling is suggesting that first-term Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) is facing a more difficult re-election campaign than a Rhode Island Democratic incumbent should expect. Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R), who lost to Raimondo, 41-36% in 2014, looks to be drawing even closer in the early going of what is likely to be a re-match campaign. Making things even more difficult for the Governor, former Democratic Secretary of State Matt Brown filed papers to run for Governor, and may do so as an Independent. Considering Mr. Brown still may have some semblance of a political base within the Democratic Party, running as an Independent would draw some votes away from Raimondo and could help put her in serious political jeopardy, ironically in one of the country's strongest Democratic states.