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Period Ending May 12, 2017

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

Senate

Alabama: As we approach the final days remaining in the special candidate filing period – the deadline is May 17 – the opposition against appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) is firming. In the past few days, two major announcements came from potential Democratic candidates, one who will run and one who won’t. Former US Attorney Doug Jones officially declared his candidacy and becomes the first major Democratic contender in the race. Conversely, state Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) says he will not enter the August 15 special Democratic primary. So far, none of the expected major Republican or Democratic office holders have come forward, but time remains.

Maine: Gov. Paul LePage (R), who on several occasions had stated that he is considering challenging Sen. Angus King (I) next year, announced this week that he will not run for the Senate. Such a challenge would have been an uphill battle. Though Gov. LePage has won two elections in Maine, both times a strong Independent took enough votes away from the Democratic nominee to allow the Republican to win with under 40% of the vote. The only announced candidate against Sen. King at this time is Republican state Sen. Eric Brakey.

West Virginia: Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) announced his challenge to Sen. Joe Manchin (D) this week. Mr. Jenkins will depart the House for the statewide campaign after two terms. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) is also expected to enter the Republican Senate primary, meaning we will see what promises to be a hotly contested GOP primary and general election.

House

FL-27: Candidates are quickly coming forward to declare for the open South Florida seat now that veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) has announced her retirement. For the Republicans, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is the first prominent officeholder to announce. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, and businessman and 2014 Democratic nominee Scott Furhman are all officially in the race. This seat will be hotly contested and a prime Democratic conversion opportunity.

GA-6: Two polls were released this week, each showing a tight contest but with two different leaders. GBA Strategies, polling for the House Majority PAC a Democratic group associated with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), conducted a survey (4/29-5/1; 400 GA-6 likely special election voters) that finds Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff leading former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), 50-48%. But, Landmark Communications, polling for WSB-TV in Atlanta (5/3-5; 611 GA-6 likely special election voters) finds almost the same margin, but in Handel’s favor. They see a 49-46% split. Interestingly, in each poll the trailing candidate leads among Independents, obviously an unusual occurrence. The special election is scheduled for June 20.

ID-1: With Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) declaring for the Governor’s race, the 1st District will be open for next year’s election. Within two days of Mr. Labrador’s announcement, 69-year-old former Lt. Governor David LeRoy declared his candidacy for the congressional seat. This will be his second run for this district, previously losing a 1994 open seat Republican primary to conservative Helen Chenoweth, who would then clinch the general election.

IL-10: Former Rep. Bob Dold (R-Kenilworth) announced he will not attempt to re-claim the seat he lost last November. Mr. Dold was first elected in 2010, and then defeated in 2012 after redistricting drastically changed his district to benefit the Democrats. He returned to win again in 2014, despite the lopsided voting history that was stacked against him. In the high turnout presidential election year, he again went down. Both times, he lost to current Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Deerfield) and the two faced each other in three consecutive elections. There won’t be a fourth battle, at least not in 2018. Without Mr. Dold on the Republican ballot line, Rep. Schneider becomes a strong favorite for re-election.

MN-2: Freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Woodbury/Burnsville) recorded a tight 47-45% victory over former healthcare company executive Angie Craig (D) last November, winning the right to succeed retiring Rep. John Kline (R-Burnsville). Looking at what will be a competitive re-election for Mr. Lewis, a new potential Democratic candidate is appearing on the political horizon. In addition to Ms. Craig possibly seeking a re-match, state Sen. Dan Schoen (D) confirms that he is considering entering next year’s congressional contest.

SC-5: Next week, voters will cast their ballots in the Republican run-off next Tuesday choosing between state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope and former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman. In the May 2nd GOP special primary, the two candidates were separated by only 135 votes. An outside air war has transpired with the US Chamber of Commerce running ads supporting Pope, and the Club for Growth countering in Norman’s behalf. The closeness of the primary and a Trafalgar Group poll suggests that this run-off is a pure toss-up. The winner faces Democrat Archie Parnell in the June 20 special general election.

VA-10: Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe announced that she will not enter the Democratic congressional primary to challenge second-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean). Last week, Ms. McAuliffe said she was seriously considering becoming a congressional candidate, which sent the local Democratic establishment scrambling since they had already recruited state Sen. Jennifer Wexton. Three other Democrats are also running. This district will feature a highly competitive general election campaign along with an active Democratic primary.

Governor

Florida: As expected, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, viewed by most as the leading Republican gubernatorial contender, officially declared his candidacy this week. Mr. Putnam, who is serving his second term in his present job, was a member of the US House for ten years, and a state Representative for the previous four. He was the youngest ever person elected to the state legislature, winning his first race at 22 years of age. Putnam leads in the polls, and already has an outside support organization that has raised in upwards of $10 million. Former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), the daughter of ex-Governor and US Senator Bob Graham (D), is potentially the leading Democrat but she must battle Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and real estate investor Chris King in the Democratic primary.

Georgia: Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek a third term, thus opening a highly competitive race to succeed him. One person who won’t be in the race is Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson (D), who announced this week that she will not become a gubernatorial candidate. More action is occurring in the Republican primary, which features Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and state Sen. Hunter Hill. Former US Reps. Jack Kingston and Lynn Westmoreland are also potential GOP gubernatorial candidates with the former, in particular, moving toward becoming a candidate.

Idaho: Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) joined the open Governor’s race and will at least face Lt. Gov. Brad Little, ex-state Sen. Russ Fulcher, and physician and real estate developer Tommy Ahlquist in the GOP primary. Republicans are favored to hold this state house in the general election, so the Republican nomination fight is key to identifying the state’s next Governor. Incumbent Butch Otter (R) is retiring after three terms.

Michigan: A surprise announcement came from Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flushing/Flint) who was thought to be the top Democratic contender for Governor. Mr. Kildee announced this week that he will remain in the House, and not enter the statewide campaign. This leaves former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer as the top Democratic candidate, at least in the short term. Other key Democrats such as University Regent Mark Bernstein, former gubernatorial nominee Geoffrey Fieger, and ex-Detroit Health Department Director and physician Abdul El-Sayed could now become major players in the Democratic nomination fight. Republicans will largely decide between Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General and former Congressman Bill Schuette. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Minnesota: Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner who was the 2014 gubernatorial nominee, announced he will run again next year. Mr. Johnson lost 50-44% to Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in the last election. Though Minnesota has no term limit law, Gov. Dayton has already announced his retirement. Since President Trump came within just 1.5 points from carrying traditionally Democratic Minnesota, Republican hopes are buoyed for a different result in 2018. Most of the prominent candidates, however, are on the Democratic side: Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), state Auditor Rebecca Otto, and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.