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Period Ending May 15, 2020

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

President

Jesse Ventura: Former Minnesota Governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura announced that he will not become a candidate for the Green Party presidential nomination. Mr. Ventura says doing so would force him to relinquish his employment and health insurance. The eventual Green Party nominee will qualify for slotting on most state ballots, as will the Libertarian Party. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (L-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids), now the first official Libertarian Party member to hold a seat in Congress, is a candidate for his party's presidential nomination.

CNN Poll: CNN conducted a nationwide political poll (5/7-10; 1,112 US adults; 1,001 registered voters; 302 over sample in 15 battleground states) and compared the national results to those found in 15 battleground states. The latter group included the typical swing states like Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but also added Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia, places where former Vice President Joe Biden has developed significant leads. On the national count, as found in most other polls, Mr. Biden leads President Trump, 51-46%, but the numbers are virtually reversed, 52-45%, in Mr. Trump's favor within the all-important battleground states.

Polling Trio: Three polls from key 2020 presidential states were released yesterday and yielded rather predictable results. In Wisconsin, Marquette Law School released their quarterly statewide survey (5/3-7; 811 WI registered voters) and found former Vice President Joe Biden edging President Trump, 46-43%. In Ohio, Emerson College (5/8-10; 725 OH registered voters) sees the President topping Mr. Biden, 51-49%, in a poll where all respondents were pushed to make a choice. In the Lone Star State of Texas, Emerson (5/8-10; 800 TX registered voters) gives the President a 52-48% advantage.

Senate

Colorado: The Colorado Democratic Senate ballot has become a political football with several candidates filing lawsuits to reduce the number of petition signatures required due to the COVID-19 precautions, while previously disqualified candidates attempted to obtain ballot placement through court decree. What began as twelve candidates looking to run for the Democratic nomination to oppose Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is now down to two official contenders for the June 30th primary: former Gov. John Hickenlooper and ex-state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. With the courts finally making definitive rulings, the ballot is now set.

Kansas: Public Opinion Strategies released a new Kansas Republican primary survey for the Roger Marshall for Senate campaign (5/10-12; 600 KS likely Republican primary voters) that projects the western district Congressman has taken the lead over former Secretary of State and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach.

The ballot test shows Rep. Marshall leading Mr. Kobach and state Senate President Susan Wagle, 33-26-7%, with two minor candidates finishing even further behind in single digits. This is a significant change from their March poll that found Mr. Kobach holding a 34-28% advantage over Rep. Marshall. Polling suggests that the normally safe Kansas seat would be vulnerable to Democratic candidate Barbara Bollier, a physician and Mission Hills state Senator, if Mr. Kobach were to win the GOP nomination.

Additionally, Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi, who appeared to be Sen. Barbara Bollier's strongest Democratic primary opponent has dropped out of the race. She stated late this week that she will not file as a candidate on the June 1st deadline. The move assuredly wraps up the nomination for Sen. Bollier, and she will await the Republican primary winner on August 4th.

Massachusetts: On the heels of our report last week that the latest University of Massachusetts at Lowell survey finds US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) leading Sen. Ed Markey (D) in a 44-42% virtual toss-up result, Emerson College (5/5-6; 740 MA registered voters; 620 MA likely Democratic primary voters) sees a much different political landscape. According to the Emerson data, Rep. Kennedy has a whopping 58-42% lead after voters were pushed to make a decision. The UMass Lowell poll is closer to the three others conducted in 2020, which yield only a three-point average Kennedy advantage.

Mississippi: A rare Mississippi US Senate poll was released from the Impact Management Group (5/4-7; 606 MS likely voters) and the data finds first-term incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) claiming a large double-digit lead over her previous special election opponent, former US Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (D) who is returning for a re-match this year. The ballot test gives the Republican Senator a 58-31% major advantage. This is a significant improvement over Sen. Hyde-Smith's 54-46% win in 2018 to fill the balance of the late Sen. Thad Cochran's (R) final term in office.

Nebraska: Sen. Ben Sasse (R) was easily re-nominated last night with a 75% Republican regular primary win against minor opposition. For the Democrats, local Omaha business owner Chris Janicek topped a field of seven candidates in a campaign where no one even raised $100,000. Sen. Sasse now becomes a prohibitive general election favorite.

North Carolina: With the FBI wanting to search Sen. Richard Burr's (R) financial records regarding stock transactions executed after receiving COVID-19 briefings, speculation is buzzing about what would happen to the Senate seat if this eventually leads to a Burr resignation. The Senator next comes before the voters in 2022, but he said even before being re-elected in 2018 that he would not seek further re-election.

North Carolina is one of three states that has a law requiring a Governor to appoint a member of the departing incumbent's political party should a US Senate vacancy occur. Therefore, in the event of a North Carolina vacancy, for example, the state Republican Party would present Democratic Roy Cooper a list of three replacement potentials of which he must choose one.

House

CA-25: Despite thousands of ballots still to be received and counted in the California special congressional election, Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D) has conceded defeat to Republican Mike Garcia. The early totals, representing almost 144,000 votes, broke heavily for the GOP retired Navy fighter pilot, 56-44%. His total included a surprisingly large 55-45% margin in dominant Los Angeles County, which was enough to spell defeat for the Democratic candidate who was originally favored to hold the seat that scandal-ridden Rep. Katie Hill (D) resigned late last year.

IA-4: American Viewpoint, polling for the Randy Feenstra for Congress campaign, is out with a new poll (5/7-8; 350 IA-4 likely Republican primary voters) that finds state Sen. Feenstra (R-Hull/Sioux County) continuing to gain ground in his Republican primary challenge to veteran Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron). The new survey finds King's lead dwindling to 39-36%. Two weeks ago, AV found Rep. King leading 41-34%. Originally behind 31 points in January, Sen. Feenstra clearly has strong momentum as the campaign makes its way toward the June 2nd primary election.

MI-6: Democratic candidate Jon Hoadley, a state Representative from Kalamazoo, released his internal Victoria Research poll (5/2-5; 400 MI-6 likely general election voters) showing him edging ahead of veteran incumbent Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) by a 38-37% margin. Whether or not this is yet a one-point race, it is clear that the southwestern Michigan district is becoming more competitive. In 2018, Rep. Upton was re-elected with a 50-46% victory margin.

Nebraska: The US House general election ballot in the Cornhusker State is now set. In the 1st District, veteran Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Lincoln) will face state Sen. Kate Bolz in what could be a more competitive general election.

In the 2nd District, 2018 Democratic nominee Kara Eastman, who scored 49% of the vote against two-term Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillon/Omaha), will get her re-match after scoring a 61% victory over Ann Ashford, wife of former Congressman Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), and restaurant manager Gladys Harrison in last night's Democratic primary. Rep. Bacon defeated a minor Republican opponent with 91% of the vote.

In the expansive 3rd District that occupies about 3/4 of the Nebraska land area, seven-term Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Gering/Grand Forks) easily defeated four Republican opponents with 82% of the vote. He will face marijuana legalization activist Mark Elworth Jr. in the general election. Mr. Elworth was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Rep. Smith is a prohibitive favorite to win in November.

VA-5: In a Republican contest that looks to be serious, freshman Virginia Republican US Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Manassas) will have to win re-nomination at a party convention in a church parking lot outside of the district. Fifth District GOP committeemen have scheduled their nominating assembly for Saturday, June 13th at the Tree of Life Ministries Church in Lynchburg, which isn't even in the 5th CD, and deliver their ballots to party officials in the parking lot. The Congressman's principle opponent is Campbell County Supervisor Bob Good, who is a member at Tree of Life. Rep. Riggleman, who is contesting the convention process and favors a primary to decide the nomination, is exploring his legal options.

WI-7: Republican state Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Minocqua) recorded a landslide 57-43% special election win over Democratic school board member Tricia Zunker last night and will finish the remainder of resigned Rep. Sean Duffy's (R-Wausau) term. Rep-Elect Tiffany will now file for the regular primary election before June 1st. The Wisconsin primary is scheduled for August 11th. The new Congressman will not likely face major opposition during the regular election cycle.

Governor

Alaska: After a long court battle, the Alaska Supreme Court ordered that a recall campaign against Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) can proceed. Alaska has stringent conditions for launching such an effort, and both sides argued their legal positions through several court proceedings attempting to determine whether Mr. Dunleavy's performance in office warranted a recall election.

Now that the recall can proceed, proponents must obtain at least 71,252 valid registered voter signatures to place the petition on the November ballot. Reportedly, the recall drive has so far collected about half the minimum amount needed meaning they have a lot of work ahead of them in an uncertain logistical environment. There is no official established signature deadline as yet, but assumptions presume the petitions must be submitted in early July.