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Period Ending June 2, 2017

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

Senate

Ohio: Investment banker Mike Gibbons, who has the financial wherewithal put several million dollars into a statewide political campaign, announced late this week that he will challenge state Treasurer Josh Mandel for the Republican US Senate nomination. Last week, it appeared that Mandel might have a clear path to the nomination when Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Franklin County) announced he would not enter the Senate race and the state’s other GOP Senator, Rob Portman, publicly endorsed his challenge of two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D). Should Mandel claim the party nomination, a re-match of the 2012 contest will occur, a race that Sen. Brown won 51-45%.

West Virginia: Rep. David McKinley (R-Wheeling), who previously confirmed that he was considering jumping into the US Senate race to challenge incumbent Joe Manchin (D), announced this week that he will not run statewide, but will seek re-election to the House. It was never taken too seriously that McKinley would enter the Senate race since Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) previously became a candidate and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is also expected to soon join the federal statewide primary. Sen. Manchin is favored for re-election, but he clearly will face a strong general election campaign since the Republicans are sure to have a viable nominee.

House

CA-21: Under-performing 2016 Democratic congressional nominee Emilio Huerta, the son of Dolores Huerta who co-founded the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez, announced late this week that he will try again next year. Three-term Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford/ Bakersfield) dispatched Huerta with a 57-43% margin last November even though Hillary Clinton was carrying the district with a virtual mirror image spread, 55-40%. The Democratic voter registration figures suggest that Republicans would have a difficult time holding this seat, but Mr. Valadao has won three consecutive elections in the high 50s.

CA-25: 2016 Democratic congressional nominee Bryan Caforio (D), who held Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale/Simi Valley) to a 53-47% re-election victory, announced that he will return for a 2018 re-match. Two other Democrats have previously entered the race: non-profit organization executive Katie Hall and geologist Jess Phoenix, but a Public Policy Polling survey conducted for Caforio (5/16-17; 596 CA-25 likely voters) sees the former Democratic contender trailing Rep. Knight 47-43%, but easily advancing from the June jungle primary into the November general election.

CA-34: Next Tuesday, the special general election between state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) and former Los Angeles City Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn (D) will conclude. The double-Democratic race is unlikely to draw a large turnout. Mr. Gomez is the establishment favorite. Thanks to just about a $500,000 influx from the candidate, Mr. Ahn has pulled about even with Gomez in campaign resources, with each campaign spending in the neighborhood of $1.3 million. Assemblyman Gomez is favored to win Tuesday, but a strong turnout in the substantial Korean community could offset some of Gomez’s advantage within the dominant Hispanic coalition.

GA-6: Another poll has been released in the northern Georgia congressional race (Landmark Communications for WSB-TV; 5/30-31; 500 GA-6 likely voters) and they again find former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) and investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff (D) locked in a virtual tie. With a polling error factor over 4 percent, Mr. Ossoff clings to a 48-47% edge, meaning either candidate can win. Election Day is June 20th, but early voting has already begun. In just the first three days, more than 24,000 individuals cast their ballots. Another turnout approaching regular mid-term election proportions is expected.

NM-1: The open Democratic primary for the Bernalillo County anchored congressional district is getting crowded. This week, former Deputy County Assessor and New Mexico Hispanic Bar Association president Damian Lara announced his congressional candidacy joining former state Democratic Party chair Deb Haaland, Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, and retired law professor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez in the forming Democratic field. Republicans are expected to compete here but, to date, no one has yet announced their candidacy. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) is running for Governor. The eventual Democratic nominee will begin the general election campaign as the favorite to hold the seat.

NY-22: Former Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) made a public statement this week indicating that he is considering a comeback attempt after just one term in retirement. It is no secret that Mr. Hanna would like to depose freshman Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford), particularly since she came relatively close to upsetting him in the 2014 Republican primary, a race where bad blood flowed indiscriminately between the two. The former Congressman further said if he were to run again, it would be as an Independent and not a Republican, claiming “the party (meaning Republican) left me.” In New York, candidates can run on multiple ballot lines, so the best option for Hanna would be to obtain the Reform or Independence Party nomination. Democrats already have at least one candidate, college professor Patrick Madden, so a Hanna entry on a minor party line could inadvertently help Tenney. Her right-of-center coalition would again be able to prevail handily in a three-way race, just as it did in 2016 when she defeated Democrat Kim Myers and Reform Party candidate Martin Babinec, 44-39-12%, respectively.

SC-5: The Archie Parnell (D) campaign claims to have an Azalone Liszt Grove Research poll that posts him to only a 40-50% deficit behind former state Rep. Ralph Norman (R) in the upcoming June 20th special election. The poll has not been released, however, so we don’t have a way of analyzing the data. The campaign says this latest survey shows a closing of Norman’s margin from 16 points in an earlier poll to ten.

UT-3: Filing has closed for the August 15th special primary election, but before that vote occurs, Republicans have scheduled a June 17th nominating convention. If a candidate receives an absolute majority, that individual advances to the August 15th primary if others have gained ballot access through a very difficult petition process that would require 7,000 valid GOP signatures by June 12th. At least two of the top tier GOP candidates, Provo Mayor John Curtis and Tanner Ainge, son of Brigham Young University basketball star and current Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, have already said they will bypass the convention and attempt to obtain direct ballot access.

The convention process is designed either to nominate a candidate outright or send no more than two individuals to a party primary. This means that a majority of the 15 Republicans who filed candidacy statements will be eliminated before the primary even begins. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) is resigning his seat at the end of the month to accept a position in the private sector. Four Democrats have filed for the special election, but the party has yet to schedule a nominating convention and is not required to do so.

Governor

Alaska: Gov. Bill Walker (I) has yet to announce his re-election plans, but his spokespeople say he will make a political announcement after the current budget special legislative session draws to a close in mid-June. Most believe he will run for a second term, but under which party designation is under intense speculation. Mr. Walker, a former Republican, won on a coalition ticket in 2014 that matched himself and a Democrat who then became Lt. Governor. Certainly, the Governor could continue on the Independent line or return to the Republican side, but considering his work with Democrats to craft a budget compromise in the special session, there is a chance he could decide to become their party’s standard-bearer.

Georgia: State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams is planning to officially kick-off her gubernatorial campaign this weekend. She will do so knowing that one potential key primary opponent is out of the way. Ex-state Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, announced he would not run for Governor in 2018. Mr. Carter was the 2014 party nominee, losing to Gov. Nathan Deal (R), 53-45%. State Rep. Stacey Evans is another Democratic candidate. Republicans feature Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and state Sen. Hunter Hill as announced participants. Former Congressman and US Senate candidate Jack Kingston is another potential Republican contender. Gov. Deal is ineligible to seek a third term.

Maryland: Former national NAACP president Ben Jealous announced his gubernatorial campaign this week. He will compete for the Democratic nomination against state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County), former University of Maryland Regent Jim Shea, technology executive Alec Ross, and retired educator Ralph Jaffe. US Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) is expected to join the race, as well. The winner faces Gov. Larry Hogan (R) who continues to enjoy very high job approval ratings. Maryland’s Democratic voting history, however, makes the state very difficult for any Republican in every circumstance.

New Jersey: The regular odd-year gubernatorial primary occurs on Tuesday, and former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are poised to capture the Democratic and Republican nominations, respectively. Once the primaries are completed, Mr. Murphy will become a heavy favorite to succeed term-limited Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Oklahoma: Four-term Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett (R) is scheduling a gubernatorial campaign announcement for next week, joining a field that already features Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, state Auditor Gary Jones, and ex-US Attorney Gary Richardson. Democrats are making a run for the office. Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, state House Minority Leader Scott Inman, and former state Sen. Connie Johnson are all announced candidates. Gov. Mary Fallin (R), who defeated Mr. Cornett in a 2006 congressional run-off election, is ineligible to seek a third term.

South Dakota: State Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton (D-Burke) announced his candidacy for Governor this week. Sen. Sutton, a top professional rodeo star who was left wheel chair bound after a terrible event accident left him without the use of his legs, will face a difficult challenge should he become the Democratic nominee. It appears likely that either at-large US Rep. Kristi Noem (R-Castlewood) or Attorney General Marty Jackley will claim the Republican nomination, making the eventual primary winner a clear favorite to succeed term-limited Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) in November of 2018.