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Period Ending April 8, 2016

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


Wisconsin: Both Sens. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) defied the pollsters and scored decisive victories in the Wisconsin Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively, early in the week. Sanders won 56-43% over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Because of the state’s Super Delegates supporting Ms. Clinton, the national front-runner accrued just 10 delegate votes less than Sanders despite substantially losing the popular vote. In the remaining 21 states, Ms. Clinton needs only 31% of the delegate votes to clinch the party nomination.

Sen. Cruz scored a 48-35-14% win over Donald Trump and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH). Due to the very different Republican allocation system that awards delegates through a Winner-Take-All by congressional district system, Cruz was able to virtually sweep the Wisconsin slate, capturing 36 delegates to Trump’s six. Kasich, who did not win any of the eight congressional districts, received no Badger State delegate votes.

bBoth parties’ next electoral event is the major New York primary on April 19. Trump’s stinging loss in Wisconsin forces him to rebound strongly in the Empire State, meaning he must capture in the neighborhood of 80 delegates from the state’s 95-member Republican contingent if he is to retain any hope of a first ballot national victory.

The NY process is complicated, so achieving such a number will be difficult. Unless a majority of the popular vote in each district is registered – New York has 27 CDs – delegates will be dispersed to more than one candidate. A sweep of the state’s delegate base is only possible if a candidate earns a majority vote statewide and in all 27 districts.

For Hillary Clinton, a strong New York performance will go a long way toward securing her nomination. The state has 291 Democratic delegates.


California: Survey USA (3/30-4/2; 1,269 CA registered voters) conducted a poll of the upcoming Golden State Senate race – jungle primary: June 7 – and again find trends suggesting that two Democrats could well advance to the general election. In fact, this is Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s (D-CA-46) best showing in any poll. The results find Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) capturing 26% support as compared to Rep. Sanchez’s 22%. The little-known cadre of Republican candidates doesn’t even break into double-digits.

Illinois: With most observers rating Sen. Mark Kirk (R) an underdog for re-election despite him being the incumbent, the first-term member took the unusual step of releasing an internal poll that shows him trailing Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL-8). According to his GS Strategy Group survey (3/30-31; 600 IL registered voters), Sen. Kirk is behind Rep. Duckworth but within the margin of error, 40-43%. He continues to be widely cast as the most vulnerable Republican incumbent seeking re-election this year.

Maryland: The Washington Post and the University of Maryland surveyed (3/30-4/3; 539 MD Democratic registered voters; 741 likely primary voters) the tight April 26 Democratic contest between Reps. Donna Edwards (D-MD-4) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) for the right to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D). According to the Post/UMD poll, Edwards claims a 44-40% lead over Van Hollen among likely primary voters, and 44-35% in the registered Democrat universe. These results contradict the internal data that Van Hollen released a week ago giving him a 45-40% advantage.

Pennsylvania: Interesting data again coming from PA. Despite the Democratic leadership pulling out all the proverbial stops for candidate Katie McGinty against former Rep. and 2010 Senate nominee Joe Sestak, the latter continues to lead the primary. According to Harper Polling (4/2-3; 603 PA likely Democratic primary voters), Sestak tops McGinty 41-31%, while Braddock Mayor John Fetterman draws 9 percent. For the general election, despite Democratic Party leaders spinning that McGinty will be stronger against Sen. Pat Toomey (R), a new Quinnipiac University poll doesn’t arrive at such a conclusion. According to their latest survey (3/30-4/4; 1,737 PA registered voters), Sen. Toomey would lead Sestak 47-39%, and McGinty 47-38%. Regardless of the primary outcome, this will be a tough general election race. The PA primary is April 26.

Wisconsin: Another new Badger State Senate poll shows a tightening of the race. The Emerson College Polling Society (3/30-4/3; 1,198 WI likely voters) finds Sen. Ron Johnson (R) now trailing former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) 44-48%, and is the fourth recent poll to find the race closing. From September through February, five consecutive national surveys found Feingold leading from between 11 and 14 percentage points. This is yet another 2016 Senate race that will likely go down to the wire.


New Jersey Filings: Candidate filing closed this week in the Garden State, and with no Senate race facing New Jersey voters in 2016, the dozen House races take center stage. All 12 have opponents for the general election, 10 with primary opposition. None of the partisan tandems appear particularly serious except possibly in Rep. Bill Pascrell’s (D) 9th District. Former Paterson Mayor Jeffrey Jones (D) filed to challenge the veteran Democratic incumbent. Paterson is the district’s anchor city. Rep. Pascrell was also Mayor prior to winning the House seat back in 1996.

But the major general election campaign will be in the Bergen County 5th District. Rep. Scott Garrett (R), the most conservative member of the New Jersey delegation, has taken heat for his opposition to the National Republican Congressional Committee supporting gay candidates. Garrett must first dispose of two minor Republican candidates in the June Republican primary, and will then face former Clinton Administration speechwriter Josh Gottheimer in what promises to be a competitive general election.

The gay comments have cost Garrett, a member of the House Financial Services Committee and chairman of the important Capital Markets Subcommittee, support from the New York financial community. Despite this, the Congressman had already raised over $700,000 for the race by the end of 2015, with almost $2.4 million in the bank. The latest quarterly reports, due next week, will show even a substantially greater campaign treasury. For his part, Democrat Gottheimer, in the same time frame, raised an even stronger $1.44 million, and had $1.2 million in the bank. We can expect a mega-campaign in this marginal, lean Republican district.

The rest of the state is calm and all incumbents are favored for re-election. The Democrats biggest recruitment failure comes in District 3 (central Jersey that stretches from the Pennsylvania border to the Atlantic Ocean). There, freshman Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-Toms River) has drawn only minor opposition for his first re-election in a seat that will likely favor Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Virginia Filings: The Old Dominion filing period closed, and because of the court-ordered redistricting in the Tidewater region, Democrats are poised to gain one seat in the delegation. All eleven incumbents have general election opposition, though Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) has drawn only a gadfly Independent candidate running on the Green Party ballot line. The state features three open seats, two because of retirement and one due to the redistricting plan. Potential general election competition looms in three seats, but the expected partisan division projects as seven Republicans and four Democrats.

Primary battles are forming in the open seats. The new Virginia Beach-anchored 2nd District is technically an open seat even though Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4) has decided to seek re-election from this district. His 4th CD was turned Democratic and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA-2) deciding not to seek re-election allowed Forbes a landing zone. He faces serious primary opposition, however, in the person of state Delegate Scott Taylor (R). Forbes has greater campaign resources and will likely repel his Republican challenger. If so, the general election should be a cakewalk because the Democrats fielded only a weak candidate in the person of community activist and frequent office seeker Shaun Brown.

The 5th District saw an early incumbent retirement, too, as three-term Rep. Bob Hurt (R) also decided not to seek re-election. While the redistricting plan made the 4th District Democratic, as a result CDs 2 and 5 became more Republican. Therefore, the GOP primary is key to determining a successor. State Sen. Tom Garrett appears to be the favorite. His three Republican opponents appear to be heavy underdogs.

The new 4th District has only drawn one Democratic candidate even though the seat now heavily favors the party. State Sen. Donald McEachin (D) is unopposed for the Democratic nomination and is the favorite against Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade (R). The Sheriff had originally announced a primary challenge to freshman Rep. David Brat (R-VA-7), the man who unseated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) in 2014. The local party, however, deciding upon a nominating convention instead of a primary made challenging Brat and exercise in futility, thus Wade hopped over into the new 4th CD.

In the northern Virginia 10th District, freshman Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) will face real estate developer LuAnn Bennett (D), the former wife of ex-Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA-8). The seat could be competitive in a presidential election year, but Comstock will be difficult to beat in any circumstance.