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Period Ending April 29, 2016

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


Eastern Primary: Donald Trump swept the eastern regional primary in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island as expected, but his delegate take even exceeded the lofty projections for him to track a first-ballot victory without the aid of unbound delegates. Looking to reach 103 of the available 118 delegate votes in the five states, Trump took 110. Adding last week’s New York prize to the group, a place where he needed 80 but won 90 delegates, the NY real estate mogul picked up 200 of the available 213 eastern delegates. Trump now needs 56% of the remaining legally bound delegates in the final 10 states to reach the 1,237 votes needed for a first-ballot victory. With Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) doing better in the actual delegate selection process, it is becoming more important than ever for Trump to clinch the nomination before the convention begins and avoid a brokered national convention battle that would likely cut against him.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also exceeded her delegate projections on the Democratic side. Capturing 286 regular and Super Delegates through the five April 26 primary states – she won four of the five states, losing to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) only in Rhode Island – Ms. Clinton now needs only 230 more delegate votes to clinch the nomination. She will likely achieve that goal in one of the early June 7 primaries. The Democrats still have 14 states and territories remaining to vote. Ms. Clinton needs just 19% of the available delegates in those places to win. She has effectively become the Democratic nominee.

Sen. Cruz then turned to former candidate Carly Fiorina and named her his Vice Presidential running mate if he were to win the nomination from a contested convention. Cruz also is now downplaying the reported alliance that he and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) are working together to deny Trump the nomination. Neither Cruz move makes much sense. The timing of the running mate announcement is odd, and observers question just how much Fiorina brings to a Cruz ticket. Not going all the way with Kasich to divide regions and target congressional districts in the key winner-take-all by CD states (Indiana and California, remaining), will now make it easier for Trump to maximize his delegate take. The only way for Trump to now lose the nomination is to force a brokered convention, and Cruz and Kasich strategically working together to deny Trump delegates is the only path.

The next stop is the Indiana primary on May 3. The winner-take-all by CD state has 57 delegates, 27 of which are awarded to the candidate placing first in the statewide vote. In the current look -- Indiana was slated as a Cruz state -- the three latest public polls suggest a Trump victory as the Public Opinion Strategies, Fox News, and CBS/YouGov all find the New Yorker topping the field with between five and eight point spreads. Should Trump win Indiana and take at least 39 of the 57 delegates, he will be well on his way to the first-ballot win and could well clinch the nomination before the national convention in Cleveland begins.


Colorado: Things continue to trend badly for Republicans in their ability to choose a nominee against Sen. Michael Bennet (D). After the GOP state convention qualified only El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn (R) for the statewide ballot, the other candidates were forced to qualify through the signature petition process. This means each aspiring candidate needed to obtain 1,500 valid Republican signatures in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. It appears the three top contenders, former state Rep. Jon Keyser, businessman Robert Blaha, and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier failed to achieve the minimum signature goal. One of Keyser’s petitions was disqualified because the signature gatherer failed to meet his qualifications, but the other two candidates did not submit the required number of actual signatures. The action could mean that only Mr. Glenn and former Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham will advance to the June 28 state primary ballot. Though vulnerable on paper, the Republican calamity makes a Bennet re-election look more probable every day.

Indiana: WHTR News and Howey Politics Indiana combined to sponsor a US Senate Indiana Republican primary poll. The survey (4/18-21; 500 IN likely Republican primary voters) finds Rep. Todd Young (R-IN-9) leading fellow Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3) 43-31% in their intra-party contest that will be decided on Tuesday. The open race has been hard-fought, and this poll is our first glimpse into how the contest might end. The winner will face former Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9) in the general election. Sen. Dan Coats (R) is retiring.

Maryland: It is likely that we have seen our first new US Senator elected. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) easily won the open Democratic US Senate nomination defeating Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4), 53-39%, far beyond the margin projected in early polling. Mr. Van Hollen will easily defeat Republican nominee Kathy Szeliga in the general election. The Democratic primary is tantamount to victory in Maryland federal statewide races. The new nominee will succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) who will leave the capitol after 40 consecutive years of service in both the House and Senate.

Pennsylvania: The hotly contested Democratic primary race between ex-Representative and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Sestak (D-Delaware County) and former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty ended with the Democratic establishment scoring a big win. Ms. McGinty won a rather substantial 43-33-19% victory over Sestak and Braddock Mayor John Fetterman. This is much wider than all the polls with the exception of the last Harper Polling study were predicting. The entire national and state Democratic Party leadership, even including President Obama and Vice President Biden, endorsed McGinty. She will now face Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in what promises to be a tight general election.


MD-4: In Rep. Donna Edwards’ open 4th congressional district, former Lt. Gov. and defeated gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown will return to elective office with a 42-34-19% Democratic primary victory over former Prince Georges County Attorney Glenn Ivey and state Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk. Mr. Brown will easily win the general election, and claim the seat in January. In what is normally one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country, Brown lost the 2014 Governor’s race to Republican Larry Hogan in what proved to be a rout. Brown will now likely rebuild his statewide political capital with several terms in the US House.

MD-6: In what proved to be a very tight general election in 2014, Republicans fielded eight candidates for the right to challenge Rep. John Delaney (D) in the fall. The crowded primary’s winner is former US Army Deputy Under Secretary Amie Hoeber (R). Though winning the primary with a six-point margin over her closest competitor, Ms. Hoeber will be a decided underdog to Rep. Delaney in November. The presidential year turnout model will drastically inflate Delaney’s victory margin from what was a near upset two years ago.

MD-8: In what will prove to be the most expensive primary election of the entire election cycle, state Sen. Jamie Raskin claimed the open Democratic primary in the DC suburban seat, defeating multi-millionaire businessman David Trone, former news anchor and national hotel executive Kathleen Matthews, and six others in what will likely be a $17 million+ combined campaign spending effort. Trone will have likely expended more than $12 million, mostly his own, on his unsuccessful effort. Raskin scored a 34-27-24% win over Trone, Matthews, and the remaining candidates. He will go onto win the general election and succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D), who will advance to the US Senate.

PA-2: Pennsylvania voters defeated the first House incumbent of the election cycle as Philadelphia Rep. Chaka Fattah fell in the Democratic primary. Mr. Fattah is under indictment for several crimes and faces a federal trial later this year. State Rep. Dwight Evans (D), a former state House Appropriations Committee chairman and gubernatorial and Philadelphia Mayoral candidate, scored a 42-34% win over Fattah and two others. Mr. Evans will now easily win the general election in the safely Democratic inner city district.

PA-8: In the open 8th District, the brother of retiring Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R), former FBI agent Brian Fitzpatrick (R), scored an easy primary win and will now be in position to defend the Bucks County GOP seat. This district is marginal in the general election, particularly in a presidential election year, and the end result will likely be close. The Democrats, in a 60-40% clip, nominated state Rep. Steve Santarsiero. He defeated liberal businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton who lost the 8th District nomination for the second consecutive time. We can expect a close race here, with two competent candidates running strong campaigns. Mr. Fitzpatrick begins the contest as a favorite, but this race is worthy of attention as the election cycle progresses.

PA-9: Understanding his primary vulnerability, Rep. Bill Shuster (R) committed early to winning re-nomination and spent well over $2 million to achieve victory. His lone opponent, retired Coast Guard officer and 2014 congressional candidate Art Halvorson, spent only 1/10 the money of Shuster. The result: just a 51-49% Shuster win. But, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman will claim another term because the Democrats did not even field a candidate in the safely Republican district, so Shuster now runs unopposed.

PA-16: In the state’s second open seat, state Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R), long thought of as the heir apparent to retiring Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Lancaster), scored a 54-46% Republican primary victory over businessman Chet Beiler who outspent the winner by a substantial amount. Mr. Smucker is now a strong favorite for election in November and will very likely become a member of the new Congress in January.


Alabama: Gov. Robert Bentley (R), under impeachment proceedings for using state money and resources to further an extra-marital affair, won a major legislative procedural vote and will likely finish his term in office. The state House of Representatives voted to change the impeachment rules, thus making it unlikely the measure can come to the floor. The action likely saves Bentley. At least one Democrat publicly came to his aid, when state Rep. Alvin Holmes declared that “having a girlfriend is not illegal.”