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Period Ending July 17, 2020

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

President

Pennsylvania: Monmouth University released their new Pennsylvania poll (7/9-13; 401 PA registered voters) and while former Vice President Joe Biden has a strong lead on the ballot test, a majority of the respondents believe there is a hidden vote for President Trump. First, the sample size is small for a state the size of Pennsylvania. A total of 401 registered voters would be more appropriate for a single congressional district. Therefore, the error factor in this poll is high.

Within the entire sample, Mr. Biden leads President Trump, 53-40%. The turnout screens alter the picture, however. In what Monmouth describes as a higher turnout model, Mr. Biden's lead drops slightly to 52-42%. A lower likely voter model allows Mr. Trump to cut the deficit to 51-44%. Yet, a total of 57% said they believe a group of people will vote for Mr. Trump but not admit it, with 27% saying there are many, 17% believing there are only a few, and 13% saying they exist but are not sure of the number. Only 35% said they did not believe Trump has "secret voters."

Senate

Alabama: Retired Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville easily won the Alabama Republican runoff election early this week with a landslide 61-39% victory margin over ex-US Attorney General and former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Mr. Tuberville advances into the general election where now challenges Sen. Doug Jones (D) in what has become a must-win for the Republicans in order to hold their Senate majority. This could be the most important indicator race in the country to determine majority status for the next Congress.

Arizona: At the beginning of July, Gravis Marketing released an Arizona Senate survey that found appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) leading retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), 46-42%. While the prevailing wisdom suggested this result is an outlier because all other data gives Mr. Kelly a sizable lead, the new YouGov poll (7/7-10; 1,087 AZ likely general election voters) finds the same 46-42% split, but in Mr. Kelly's favor. Though the YouGov poll again posts the consensus Democratic candidate to be holding the lead, this survey seems to confirm that the important Arizona Senate race is getting tighter.

Georgia: US Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) released his internal Battleground Connect poll (7/6-8; 600 GA likely general election voters) this week, and the results place him ahead of the entire special election US Senate jungle primary field with 26% support. Interestingly, Gravis Marketing in their July 2nd survey of 513 likely Georgia primary voters also found Rep. Collins leading the pack with an identical 26% figure.

The Gravis poll, however, projects a tighter field. They see Mr. Collins leading appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), 26-24% with Baptist pastor Raphael Warnock, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's endorsed candidate, in third position with 18% ahead of Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman (11%) and former US Attorney Ed Tarver (9%). In the Collins' Battleground Connect poll, the Congressman's lead over Sen. Loeffler is 26-17%, with Mr. Lieberman in third position with 15%, and Rev. Warnock and Mr. Tarver following with 10 and 5%, respectively.

Kentucky: The Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, a top Democratic polling firm, tested the post-primary Kentucky general electorate (7/7-12; 800 KY likely general election voters) and found Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) leading new Democratic nominee Amy McGrath, 45-41%. The poll appears to be following the pattern one would expect to see in a McConnell Senate race. The contest begins close as the candidates officially enter the general election, and then turns toward Sen. McConnell in the waning days, which results in him scoring a comfortable win. This same conclusion is likely to happen again in 2020.

Montana: Another poll was released in Montana that finds the Senate race between incumbent Steve Daines (R) and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to be a cliff hanger. The prolific Public Policy Polling has released new data of the Big Sky Country electorate. The survey (7/9-10; 1,224 MT “voters”) gives Gov. Bullock a 46-44% edge over Sen. Daines. With the same respondent sample yielding President Trump a 51-42% advantage over former Vice President Joe Biden, it is likely that Sen. Daines is the candidate who has more room to grow.

Tennessee: Last week we reported on two conflicting polls about the August 6th Tennessee US Senate Republican primary race. The Tarrance Group (6/28-30; 651 TN GOP likely voters) found former US Ambassador Bill Hagerty leading Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi, 46-29%, while Victory Phones (6/30-7/1; 800 likely Republican primary voters) saw the Hagerty lead only at 33-31%. Now, the Trafalgar Group (7/6-8; 1,072 TN likely Republican primary voters) released numbers that are much closer to the Victory Phones data. Trafalgar shows Mr. Hagerty holding only a 42-39% lead suggesting this race is much closer than originally projected.

Texas: Retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar, who lost the 31st Congressional District race to incumbent Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) in 2018, returned to capture the Democratic US Senate nomination on Tuesday with a 52-48% win over state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas). Ms. Hegar ran strongly in west, central, and south Texas, while Sen. West ran up majorities in Dallas, Houston, and Ft. Worth, along with east Texas. Ms. Hegar now faces an uphill climb against three-term Sen. John Cornyn (R) in the November election.

House

AL-1&2: Two important House Republican runoffs were decided this week that almost certainly determined who will capture the open seat races in November. In the Mobile anchored 1st District, Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl defeated former state Sen. Bill Hightower to win the GOP nomination. He now becomes a prohibitive favorite to defeat the new Democratic nominee, retired Marine Corps noncommissioned officer James Everhart who won his party's runoff last night with a 57-43% majority.

In the southeastern 2nd District, former state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) recorded a big 60-40% win over moving company owner Jeff Coleman, who outspent the victor by a 5:1 margin. Mr. Moore becomes the prohibitive favorite in November to succeed retiring Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery). Former educator Phyllis Harvey-Hall won the Democratic nomination outright in the March 3rd primary.

KS-2: In a developing story, Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) has been indicted on three counts of felony vote fraud from a previous election. Mr. Watkins is charged with registering to vote at a UPS postal center instead of a residence since he moved into the state to run for Congress. He then voted with that registration, which caused an additional violation. Rep. Watkins is already in a competitive Republican primary with state Treasurer Jake LaTurner among others, so the August 4th nomination election certainly includes a new twist.

ME-2: While the final victory declaration won't be released for some time because former state Rep. Dale Crafts (R) only leads with a plurality and the Ranked Choice Voting process will now begin, his Republican opponents are already pledging him their support. Second place finisher Adrienne Bennett has virtually conceded the race saying she would fully commit to helping Crafts in the general election. Third place finisher Eric Brakey said he could support Crafts if the latter man would work in Congress to help end the Afghanistan War, and the presumptive nominee told the media that he and Brakey are already having discussions about the topic. Once his nomination becomes officials, Mr. Crafts will oppose freshman Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) in what looks to be a competitive contest.

MT-AL: Public Policy Polling in their Montana survey (see Senate section above) also tested the open House race between State Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) and former state Rep. Kathleen Williams (D). According to the PPP results, the two candidates are tied at 44% apiece. A close result is also consistent with other Montana polls that have been publicized here in the past few weeks.

NE-2: Nebraska's 2nd District becomes one of the more important CDs in 2020 because of its effect upon the presidential race. Nebraska and Maine are the two states that split their electoral votes, so a candidate winning a district opposite of the statewide count earns an extra EV. The new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll (6/30-7/5; 502 NE-2 likely general election voters) conducted for the Kara Eastman campaign actually gives their client and 2018 Democratic nominee a 50-49% lead over incumbent Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion/Omaha) in a race that again promises to be tight.

The presidential numbers are much different, however. GQR finds Joe Biden leading President Trump, 51-44%. Such a result would not likely flip Nebraska to the Biden camp, but could possibly deliver him an important extra electoral vote, one that could conceivably cause a tie in the Electoral College in a close national result.

New York: The New York primary was June 23rd, and we still don't have final results, nor declared winners in several congressional nomination races. New York election officials in New York City refuse to say when the counting process will end, and numbers released.

It does appear in the Upstate that former Millbrook Village Trustee Kyle Van De Water has defeated fashion company owner Ola Hawatmeh, and that Mondaire Jones has been declared the winner in the open Westchester County anchored seat. In the former, absentee ballots have erased Ms. Hawatmeh's lead on election night, and Mr. Van De Water is now ahead 57-43%, a margin that will clinch the primary for him. He now faces freshman Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck) in the general election. Mr. Jones has won a crowded Democratic primary in the 17th District and becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison).

PA-1: A new Public Opinion Strategies survey (7/11-14; 400 PA-1 likely general election voters) projects two-term Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) to be holding a substantial 53-39% advantage. The poll is surprising in that it contradicts the tight numbers that earlier post-primary polling revealed. Furthermore, Mr. Fitzpatrick's rather weak 63% performance in the June 23rd Republican primary also lend credence to the surveys that find his contest with Democratic nominee Christina Finello as falling into toss-up mode.

Texas Runoffs: Former Dallas US Rep. Pete Sessions looks poised to return to Congress after winning the Republican nomination for the Waco/College Station 17th CD on Tuesday night. The former Congressman re-located to his boyhood hometown of Waco after losing his Dallas County seat in 2018 to current Rep. Colin Allred (D). Mr. Sessions defeated healthcare executive Renee Swann who had retiring Rep. Bill Flores’ (R-Bryan) active endorsement, and now becomes the prohibitive favorite in the general election in what is a safe Republican seat.

Despite only leading by seven votes at the end of the unofficial tabulation, TX-23 candidate Tony Gonzales is surprisingly declaring victory even with such a tight margin. Mr. Gonzales placed first in the runoff election with 12,346 votes as compared to GOP opponent Raul Reyes’ 12,339 tallies. It is not being reported how many absentee ballots are outstanding, but it is a reasonable assumption that not all of the cast ballots are yet counted. Additionally, with such a small margin separating the two, a re-count will be a virtual certainty. The eventual winner faces 2018 Democratic nominee Gina Ortiz Jones who won the 2020 nomination outright on March 3rd.

Other significant runoff winners were 2018 Democratic nominee Mike Siegel (D-10th District; challenging GOP Rep. Michael McCaul), retired Navy Admiral and ex-White House physician Ronny Jackson (R-13th District open seat; becomes prohibitive favorite), Ft. Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls (R-22nd District open seat; competitive general election against Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni), and ex-School Board member Candace Valenzuela (D-24th District open seat; competitive general election opposite Republican Beth Van Duyne).