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Period Ending May 11, 2018

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

Senate

Florida: A new Florida Atlantic University survey (5/4-7; 1,000 Florida registered voters via online sampling) finds Gov. Rick Scott (R), who has been advertising heavily since announcing for the Senate in early April, leads incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D), 44-40% according to the poll results. Among likely voters within the large polling segment, however, the two men are tied at 45% apiece. We can expect this race to carry a toss-up rating all the way to Election Day.

Mississippi: The US Chamber of Commerce commissioned a Global Strategy Group survey (5/1-3; 500 MS likely voters) and found new Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) holding a 30-22-17-4% lead over former US Agriculture Secretary and ex-Mississippi Congressman Mike Espy (D), state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), and Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton (D), respectively. The polling confirms Republican concerns that McDaniel's candidacy will force Hyde-Smith into a post-election run-off.

Meanwhile, Mayor Shelton announced that he will not continue his campaign, thus allowing Mr. Espy to better coalesce Democrats around his statewide effort. All candidates will appear on the November 6th ballot in a jungle primary format. A likely run-off will ensue on November 27th because it is improbable, at least as this early-going forecast suggests, that any candidate can command an outright majority.

Indiana: Former state Representative and national distribution company owner Mike Braun (R-Jasper) defeated US Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), 41-30-29% for the Republican US Senate nomination on May 8th. Mr. Braun now challenges Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the general election in a campaign that should earn a toss-up rating all the way to Election Day. Mr. Braun's clever primary campaign successfully melded Rokita and Messer into one negative Washington incumbent, thus convincing a plurality of Republican voters to select him.

Ohio: The Senate general election campaign is now set. In the May 8th primary, Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) won the Republican nomination with a 47-32% victory over Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons. Rep. Renacci will now challenge two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in the fall. Sen. Brown was unopposed for re-nomination in the Democratic primary. The Senator begins the general election cycle in the clear favorite's position.

West Virginia: Attorney General Patrick Morrisey defeated US Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) and former energy company CEO and convicted felon Don Blankenship to win the Republican Senate primary this Tuesday. Mr. Morrisey scored a 35-29-20% win over Messrs. Jenkins and Blankenship, respectively. The two-term Attorney General now faces Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the general election in what should be another hard fought toss-up election all the way to November.

House

Indiana: Since Congressional Districts 4 and 6 are both safely Republican, new GOP nominees Jim Baird, a state Representative, and Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, have virtually punched their tickets to Congress. Both won the respective primaries in the 4th and 6th, and the two men will individually replace Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), each of whom risked their seats to run unsuccessfully in Tuesday's Senate primary.

NC-3: North Carolina veteran Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville) survived two primary challengers earlier this week, but only garnered 43% of the vote. Because North Carolina election law only requires a run-off if a candidate falls below 30%, however, Rep. Jones won re-nomination and clinched another term on Tuesday night. Because the Democrats did not file a candidate in the 3rd District race, Rep. Jones is guaranteed to win re-election in November. He was first elected in 1994, and says the upcoming term will be his last.

NC-9: The first incumbent electoral casualty of the 2018 election season occurred this week in southern North Carolina. Two years ago, after a mid-decade court-ordered redistricting radically changed the 9th Congressional District, making 60% of the territory new to Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte) soon before the 2016 primary, he and former Charlotte area pastor Mark Harris fought to a virtual draw in the GOP primary. In that year, Rep. Pittenger survived by only a 134-vote margin. On Tuesday, the tables turned. Mr. Harris denied Rep. Pittenger re-nomination with a 48.5 - 46.2% percentage spread, a margin of 814 votes.

Mr. Harris will now face Democratic businessman Dan McCready, who has already raised almost $2 million for his campaign. The 9th District, which now stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville along the South Carolina border, looks to be competitive in the fall. But, President Trump carried the seat by nine percentage points in 2016, and Rep. Pittenger won the general election with 58% of the vote, so the voting trends still clearly favor the new Republican nominee.

OH-12: On Tuesday, state Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) nipped local township trustee Melanie Leneghan by one percentage point to win the Republican special election nomination. Sen. Balderson now advances to the special general scheduled in a stand-alone election on August 7th. The winner replaces former Rep. Pat Tiberi (R) who resigned from the House in order to return to the private sector. In that election, Sen. Balderson faces Franklin County Recorder Danny O'Connor who won the Democratic nomination with 41% of the vote in a field of six candidates. The Republican primary out-drew the Democratic side by over 23,000 voters. Sen. Balderson is the clear favorite to win the special general. He simultaneously won the Republican nomination for the full term in the regular cycle, also by a one-percentage point margin.

OH-16: Also on Tuesday, Anthony Gonzalez, a former professional football player with the Indianapolis Colts after starring at Ohio State University, won the Republican primary to succeed Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) who became the Senate Republican nominee on the same night. Mr. Gonzalez defeated state Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township), 53-41%. He now will oppose healthcare company executive Susan Moran Palmer (D) in the general election. The 56-39% Trump district should easily yield a Gonzalez victory on November 6th.

SC-4: A total of 13 Republican candidates are running to succeed retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg) in the upcoming June 12th primary election. If no candidate secures majority support, a run-off will occur just two weeks later on June 26th. According to a National Research survey (4/23-25; 400 SC-4 likely Republican primary voters) for the GOPAC Election Fund, former state Sen. Lee Bright (R-Roebuck) pulls 13%, followed by a group of candidates between 5 and 7%. Former Spartanburg County Republican chairman Josh Kimbrell, state Sen. William Timmons (R-Greenville), and state Rep. Dan Hamilton (R-Greenville) are all within the margin of polling error for the second run-off position. No other candidate exceeded 2% support. In all, only 37% of the respondents could name a preferred candidate.

WA-8: Controversy has been reigning in the Washington state media about a Global Strategy Group poll (released in part on 4/12; 400 WA-8 likely jungle primary voters) that has been selectively released. The flap surrounds whether pediatrician Kim Schrier or attorney Jason Rittereiser is in second place. Under the Washington primary process, the top two candidates advance to the general election regardless of vote percentage or party affiliation. But, regardless of who is doing better among Democrats, the more important fact is that Republican former state Senator and gubernatorial nominee Dino Rossi begins the race with a commanding lead. According to the latest release from the GSG, the "uniformed", or first ballot test question asked, finds Rossi garnering 48% support. Dr. Schrier is second with 14%, Mr. Rittereiser third at 6%, and a second physician, Shannon Hader (D), is third with 5 percent. The 8th District is a marginal Republican seat that Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) is vacating after seven terms.

WV-3: With Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) leaving the House for his unsuccessful Senate run, the voters in the open 3rd District chose nominees on Tuesday. The Republicans fielded seven candidates, and state House Majority Whip Carol Miller (R-Cabell County) won the nomination with just 25% of the vote. She will face state Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) who grabbed 52% support in the Democratic primary over three others. Ms. Miller will begin the race as the favorite, but Sen. Ojeda could make this a competitive general election.

Governor

Alaska: Under a new state election law that allows Independent candidates to enter partisan primaries, Gov. Bill Walker, the nation's lone Independent Governor, said yesterday that he will compete for the Democratic nomination in the state's August 21st primary. He could continue on the Independent line in the general election irrespective of the primary outcome. Over the weekend, former US Sen. Mark Begich (D) again refused to rule out his own bid for Governor. Should he enter the race, Mr. Begich would be viewed as the favorite for the Democratic nomination, yielding a likely three-way free-for-all in the general election where anything could happen.

Florida: The aforementioned Florida Atlantic University poll (see Florida Senate above) finds both the open Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries to be virtual ties with all candidates securing less than 20% support. For the Democrats, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads the field with just 16% respondent preference, followed by former US Rep. Gwen Graham at 15%, businessman Chris King taking 10%, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum following with just 6% support. On the Republican side, Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) has an identical 16-15% edge over Agriculture Commissioner and former US Rep. Adam Putnam.

The third presumed significant candidate, state House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O' Lakes), was expected to begin a major push forward but has now changed course. Consistently failing to even reach high single-digits in polling, Mr. Corcoran has decided not to run, and this week instead endorsed Mr. Putnam.

Iowa: According to a new Remington Research survey (5/5-6; 2,315 IA likely Democratic primary voters; automated), businessman Fred Hubbell (D), who has been advertising heavily as the nomination campaign moves into its final month before the June 5th primary election, has developed a large lead. The results find Mr. Hubbell capturing 46% of the polled Democratic respondent group. State Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) is far back with 20%, followed by four other candidates all registering below 8% preference. The winner will challenge Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in November. Ms. Reynolds, the state's Lt. Governor until incumbent Terry Branstad (R) was appointed US Ambassador to China, is running for her first full term.

Kansas: State House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita) has ended his gubernatorial campaign. With state Rep. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) capturing the party's liberal faction and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer (D) squeezing him from a geographic perspective, Mr. Ward had a very narrow path to victory. Instead, he announced that he will seek another term in the state House.

Maryland: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who was one of the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates, suffered a heart attack early yesterday morning and suddenly passed away at the age of 60. His passing leaves not only a void in statewide Democratic politics but also in Baltimore local government. Since Mr. Kamenetz chose an official running mate, former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D), she has until next Thursday to make a decision about her ticket's status. Under state law, Ms. Ervin can elevate herself to the gubernatorial position, invite another person to take Mr. Kamenetz's place, or withdraw the ticket from the ballot. The latest available campaign finance report showed the Kamenetz campaign had raised over $1 million, a war chest that Ms. Ervin will inherit if she decides to become the gubernatorial candidate.

Missouri: State legislative leaders announced they have met the requirements to call a special session of the state House and Senate to consider the special committee report about Gov. Eric Greitens (R) pre-election affair with a married woman and subsequent felony indictment for invasion of privacy. The special session will begin May 18th, and could result in an impeachment vote. In the House, 15 Representatives beyond than the required minimum amount signed the legislative petition to request a special session. In the Senate, 26 were need to agree, and 29 Senators made the official request. Such numbers do not bode well for Gov. Greitens. If he were removed from office, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson (R) would become Governor.

Ohio: In the lone Governor's race on the ballot in the multi-state May 8th primary, Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine easily defeated Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, 60-40%. For the Democrats, as expected, former Attorney General and ex-Federal Consumer Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray topped former Rep. Dennis Kucinich and others with 62% of the party vote. The DeWine-Cordray general election now sets up a re-match between the two former opponents. In 2010, Mr. DeWine, who lost his US Senate seat in 2006, unseated then-Attorney General Cordray, 47-46%, in that year's general election. The Ohio Governor's race is open because incumbent John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.