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Period Ending June 16, 2017

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

Senate

Michigan: Former state Supreme Court Judge Robert Young (R) is expected to announce his challenge to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) early next week. Judge Young served on the state high court for just about 20 years, winning several statewide confirmation elections. Republicans have so far lacked a prominent opponent for Sen. Stabenow and have greater hopes of being competitive here after President Trump scored his upset victory here over Hillary Clinton last November.

House

AZ-2: Former state Rep. Matt Heinz (D), who didn’t fare particularly well against Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) last year (losing 57-43%), announced that he will seek a re-match next year. He will first have to battle five other Democrats for the party nomination, including former state Rep. Bruce Wheeler (D-Tucson), and businessmen Billy Kovacs and Jeff Latas. The southeastern Arizona 2nd District is a politically marginal seat.

CA-48: California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) has represented western Orange County since his first election in 1988 and he just drew a significant opponent late this week. Stem Cell scientist Hans Keirstead (D) announced that he will attempt to qualify for the general election in California’s jungle primary system. Dr. Keirstead, who reportedly sold his stem cell research company for more than $120 million, says he won’t self-fund his congressional campaign, but it is likely he will add resources to his campaign treasury when needed. Five other Democrats had previously announced. Former state Assemblyman Scott Baugh (R) is also talking about hopping into the race, which could potentially create problems for the Congressman within his GOP base. Mr. Rohrabacher was re-elected to a 15th term last November with a 58-42% margin.

FL-23: Law professor Tim Canova (D), who drew national attention and a Bernie Sanders endorsement for challenging Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) in 2016, announced that he will return for a re-match next year. He had also flirted with a primary challenge to Sen. Bill Nelson (D), but has decided on another House contest. Despite raising almost $3.9 million for his primary challenge to the then-sitting Democratic National Committee chair, the final margin was not as close as many believed. The Congresswoman won a 57-43% re-nomination victory. Mr. Canova will be hard-pressed to raise as much money as he did two years ago, and Ms. Wasserman Schultz seemed to be at her most vulnerable point in the last election. Therefore, the chances of denying her re-nomination this year appear very slim.

GA-6: Several polls have been released as we turn toward the last week of this expensive special election campaign featuring Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel.

The latest data to reach the public domain comes from the Trafalgar Group, the only pollster to correctly predict the Great Lakes region swinging to President Trump. Their poll (6/8-10; 60,000 contacts through automated devices) finds Ossoff leading Handel, 50-47%. Survey USA (6/7-11; 700 GA-6 registered voters; 503 likely or early voters) actually found Handel tracking back from the soon-to-be-mentioned Abt Associates survey, and into a dead heat at 47-47%. Abt Associates, for the Atlanta Journal Constitution (6/5-8; 1,000 GA-6 likely voters) found Ossoff expanding to a 51-44% advantage, but the respondent group included too many Democrats because it appeared to over-emphasize the 2016 presidential race. Doing so fails to take into account the long-term Republican vote history from this northern Georgia region. Just before the Abt results were released, the race’s most prolific pollster, Landmark Communications for WSB-TV in Atlanta (5/30-31; 500 GA-6 likely voters), found a 49-48% split in Ossoff’s slight favor.

The polling stats, with both candidates running so closely together, suggests either can win, and voter turnout will be the determining factor. Early voting is already running well ahead of the 55,000 pace realized in the special primary. As early voting was closing, more than 102,000 ballots had already been cast. Election Day is next Tuesday.

ID-1: State Sen. Russ Fulcher (R), who had been actively campaigning for Governor, has quickly switched gears. With Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle/Boise) moving into the open Governor’s race, Sen. Fulcher has decided entering the vacated congressional race would be the smarter move instead of remaining in a race where he was a decided underdog. So far, the only Republicans to announce for Congress are former Lt. Gov. David LeRoy and ex-Idaho County Commissioner James Rockwell.

SC-5: Lost in the hoopla of the GA-6 special, the north-central South Carolina vacant seat will also be decided on Tuesday night. Republican former state Representative Ralph Norman is poised to defeat Democratic nominee Archie Parnell, a former Wall Street executive. The Democrats have paid little attention to this campaign and invested only nominally, thereby virtually conceding the contest to Mr. Norman. The winner replaces former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (D-Lancaster/Rock Hill) who is now the Director of the Office of Management & Budget.

Governor

Alabama: Democrats recruited their first major candidate for the 2018 Governor’s race, as former state Supreme Court Judge Sue Bell Cobb announced that she will enter the race. New Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who succeeded resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R), has yet to make a decision about running in 2018. Largely due to the Governor’s ambivalence, five Republicans have come forward to declare their candidacies, including state Auditor John McMillan, and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

California: A new Goodwin Simon Strategic Research survey (5/30-6/5; 602 CA likely primary voters) conducted for State Treasurer John Chiang’s (D) campaign brings much better news for the poll sponsor than did a University of California at Berkeley poll released last week. According to the Goodwin data, though the sample size is low for a state the size of California, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) leads the field of jungle primary candidates with 26%. The remaining three contenders are closely bunched: former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (12%), Republican John Cox (11%), and Chiang (10%). The Cal Berkeley survey, from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies with 885 likely voters, reported a similar order but with Mr. Chiang all the way down at the 4% support level.

Minnesota: State Representative and former Speaker and Minority Leader Paul Thissen officially joined the Democratic gubernatorial primary, vying for the opportunity to succeed retiring Gov. Mark Dayton (D). The Democratic primary now has six candidates, including US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), state Auditor Rebecca Otto, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and state Representatives Tina Liebling and Erin Murphy. Hennepin County Commissioner and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson leads the Republican field.

New Jersey: A new Quinnipiac University poll (6/7-12; 1,103 NJ registered voters) found former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy jumping out to a huge 55-26% lead over Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in the first poll of the 2017 gubernatorial general election. Mr. Murphy is riding a negative Republican wave that finds President Trump with a poor 28:66% job approval rating, and a record low 15:81% favorability index for outgoing Gov. Chris Christie (R).

New York: Marist College just completed a New York state poll with NBC 4 New York (6/6-10; 839 NY adults; 703 registered voters), testing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and projecting how he might do in running for a third term. The job approval rating, which the Marist pollsters say is an improvement over past showings, found him with 43% excellent or good ratings, and 48% fair or poor. Though tested in hypothetical head-to-head match-ups, the Governor performs exceedingly well. None of the four Republicans sampled, including Donald Trump Jr., even reaches 28%. Cuomo averages 59% against the most prominent Republicans. He appears to be an early lock for re-election.

Virginia: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie won their respective gubernatorial nomination battles, though the result contained many surprises. The Democratic battle was supposed to be close with Northam pitted against former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville), and some even believed an upset was possible, but the final tally proved to be a landslide. Mr. Northam claimed a 56-44% win and scored big margins in the vote rich territory of northern Virginia, Richmond, and the Tidewater region.

For the Republicans, we saw the opposite scenario. This race was supposed to be an easy run for Mr. Gillespie, but he only managed to squeak out a 44-43% win over Prince William County Board chairman Corey Stewart. The primary results make Northam the favorite in November. Gillespie’s best scenario was to start with a strong Republican win, while Northam struggled against Perriello. With the close Republican finish, Gillespie now must tack to the right in order to secure his base, thus leaving the center for Northam to occupy. Considering Virginia’s voting history, this race now clearly favors the Democrats to hold the seat being vacated by term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).