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Period Ending April 7, 2017

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

Senate

Pennsylvania: While Republican elected officials have been widely speculating about challenging Gov. Tom Wolf (D), little attention is seemingly being paid to Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) who is also standing for re-election. So far, only state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny County) has announced a Senate campaign, but this week US Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler/Erie) confirmed that he is also considering a Senate bid. Additionally, Mr. Kelly says he has still not ruled out running for Governor. Sen. Casey is favored for re-election, though President Trump carrying the state and Sen. Pat Toomey (R) winning a second term last year has provided Republicans with a fresh victory base from which to build future competitive statewide efforts.

House

CA-34: Voters in the first of the special elections went to the polls this week, and Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) and former Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn (D) advanced to the special general election scheduled for June 6. The two overcame 21 other candidates to advance from a jungle primary that saw less than 10% of the registered voter universe cast a ballot. Mr. Gomez is the Democratic establishment candidate, while Ahn self-funded half of his $630,000 special primary campaign. With two Democrats advancing, the seat will obviously remain in party hands. Gomez captured 28% of the vote as compared to Ahn’s 20%.

CA-45: It was a notable political week in Southern California. In Los Angeles, we saw the cycle’s first special election vote, and just to the south two-term Orange County Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R) drew not one, but three Democratic challengers for 2018. University of California at Irvine law professor Katie Porter, a former staff member for then-Attorney General (and now US Senator) Kamala Harris, David Min, also a UC Irvine professor who once worked for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Kia Hamadanchy, who just left Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) staff, each announced their congressional candidacies during the week. Rep. Walters won a 59% re-election victory in November, but the district slipped away from President Trump in a 50-44 percentage split. Prior to this presidential election, the 45th had been a strongly Republican seat. Mitt Romney, for example, garnered 55% here against President Obama in 2012.

GA-6: The north Georgia special election still commands the most attention of the five concurrent special elections. This week, consensus Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff announced that he has raised a whopping $8.3 million so far for his campaign. With Republicans already spending $4 million, this contest will likely set an all-time special election record in expenditures. Polling shows Ossoff in the low 40s with the Republicans hovering around 20%. When general election ballot tests are conducted with the four major GOP candidates against Ossoff, a dead heat appears in all scenarios.

The first election, featuring 18 candidates, is scheduled for April 18. Since it is unlikely that Ossoff can reach the 50% threshold, the top two finishers will advance to the June 20 general election. It appears that Mr. Ossoff has all but clinched one of the run-off positions, but questions remain whether his eventual Republican opponent will be former Secretary of State Karen Handel, businessman and local city councilman Bob Gray, state Sen. Judson Hill, or former state Sen. Dan Moody.

KS-4: Voters in southeast Kansas will go to the polls Tuesday to elect the first new Congressman in this active special election season and they will choose between state Treasurer Ron Estes (R) and attorney James Thompson (D). Republicans are dropping some last-minute money into the race to buck up Republican turnout, but the Democrats appear to be conceding this race. The state party structure has reportedly declined Thompson’s request for spending help. Neither candidate has raised much money. Estes, is only in the low $300,000 range, while Thompson is about $100,000 behind. As long as voter turnout is at least average for a special election, Mr. Estes will be elected. The two are vying to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo who resigned the House seat upon his confirmation to the new position.

MT-AL: Last week we reported that country rock singer Rob Quist surprised national political observers with already raising over $754,000 for his at-large congressional special election effort. This week, the Quist campaign launched two television ads defining himself as someone who has been “the voice of Montana” from a career in music. Republican businessman Greg Gianforte countered with his own ads, and both candidates seemed to be echoing a similar anti-Washington theme. This election, slated for May 25, will become more interesting as the campaign progresses.

NH-1: Former South Hampton police chief Eddie Edwards (R) announced that he will challenge Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-Rochester) next year. The 1st District has defeated more incumbents, including Ms. Shea-Porter twice, than any congressional seat in the country and we can expect another hotly contested battle in 2018. Since 2006, only one incumbent, Ms. Shea-Porter, was re-elected (2008). Challengers won in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.

NM-1: Weeks ago, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) announced that she will run for Governor in 2018. Since then, no one from either party has come forward to enter the open 1st District House race … until now. Albuquerque Democratic City Councilman Pat Davis announced that he will become a congressional candidate. Though others are expected to come forward in both parties, so far only Davis has made an announcement. The 1st District, the most metropolitan of New Mexico’s three CDs, can be competitive but the eventual Democratic nominee will have the inside track to taking the seat in November of 2018.

Governor

Alabama: The investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R) regarding his alleged mis-appropriation of state funds in relation to an extra-marital affair with a state employee advanced to the next level this week. The Alabama Ethics Commission found that the potential misconduct does warrant further action and referred the case to the Montgomery County District Attorney. Gov. Bentley is in danger of soon facing an impeachment vote within the legislature. Should impeachment and removal from office occur, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) would become Governor. Mr. Bentley rejected immediate calls for him to resign after the Ethics Committee’s official statement was made public.

Colorado: It has been clear since former Senator and US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D) said he would not enter the 2018 open Governor’s race that six-term Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) would soon announce his candidacy. With the Congressman scheduling a special announcement for Sunday, it is presumed that he will officially become a gubernatorial candidate. If, in fact, this does happen, he will leave his Denver suburban moderately competitive congressional seat open. For the Republicans, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who prosecuted mass murderer James Holmes, announced he will seek the GOP gubernatorial nomination. We can expect both parties to heavily contest that seat, with the Democrats being regarded as at least slight favorites to hold. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Minnesota: Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who last week announced his campaign for Governor, picked up major endorsements this week. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Detroit Lakes) announced support for his colleague, and perhaps more importantly, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also lent his name to the Walz campaign. Up until this week, Mr. Rybak, himself, was regarded as a potential gubernatorial candidate. On the other hand, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) said he is still considering entering the race and will decide shortly about whether he will run statewide.

Virginia: In a necessary move to bolster his strategy of becoming the liberal faction’s gubernatorial candidate, former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) received former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) endorsement this week. This, and the fact that Perriello is running even with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in early polling, is making the Democratic gubernatorial primary a major race of note. Term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), and Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D) have all endorsed Northam. Aside from Sen. Sanders, Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta announced his support for Perriello.