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Period Ending July 21, 2017

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

Senate

Indiana: The OnMessage survey research firm conducted a statewide Republican primary survey (7/10-12; 400 IN GOP likely primary voters) and found a flat 23-23% tie developing between US Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie). Two other potential GOP candidates, Attorney General Curtis Hill and state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) register 4 and 2 percent, respectively. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) will run for a second term and awaits the eventual GOP for the general election. This will be a top Republican conversion opportunity race all the way to Election Day 2018.

Missouri: Last week, Remington Research released their late June survey that tested four Republican potential US Senate candidates, three House members and a statewide official, and found all to be leading Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) by single-digit margins. While Remington did not test new Attorney General Josh Hawley, the Club for Growth did. According to their study (Fabrizio, Lee & Associates; 7/10-11; 500 MO likely Republican primary voters), Mr. Hawley maintains a small four-point lead over Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), 46-42%. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Columbia), who had been openly considering running for the Senate next year, announced that she will not enter the statewide campaign. The move could be a precursor toward Hawley announcing his candidacy.

Utah: While Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) publicly debates whether he will seek an eighth term in the Senate – he was originally elected in 1976 and is the second-longest serving Republican Senator in US history – the Democrats now have a credible candidate either to oppose him or run in an open seat. Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson officially announced her candidacy. Ms. Wilson has twice won the at-large Council position, meaning she has won two elections countywide in the state’s largest governmental entity. She is the daughter of former Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson (D). Sen. Hatch says he is leaning toward running again, and his substantial fundraising action ($1 million in the second quarter; $4.1 million cash-on-hand) suggests that he will once again be on the ballot in the next election. Republicans are heavy favorites to hold this seat, but it now appears that at least some competition is on the political horizon.

House

CA-39: California becoming the nation’s top Democratic state is even carrying its effects through to veteran Orange County Republican House members. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) was originally elected to the House in 1992 after serving 11 years in the California state Senate. He won a 12th term with 57% of the vote against the flow of a 2016 Democratic Golden State landslide. He currently serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. To date he had a pair of announced Democratic opponents and, this week, an additional two came to the forefront. Gil Cisneros (D) may be the first lottery winner to run for the House. In 2010, Mr. Cisneros won $266 million in California’s Mega Millions lottery, so he obviously has the wherewithal to run for Congress. Former Commerce Department official Sam Jammal also announced his candidacy. He previously served as chief of staff to California Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-Pacoima/Los Angeles). A large minority population in this southern California district could make this race seriously competitive next year despite of Rep. Royce’s long record of success here.

FL-6: Former Deputy National Security Advisor (to President Bill Clinton) Nancy Soderberg announced her congressional candidacy yesterday, presumably against three-term Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/ Daytona Beach). But, Ms. Soderberg may soon find herself in an open seat situation because Rep. DeSantis remains a potential gubernatorial or state Attorney General candidate. A crowded Republican primary will ensue if Rep. DeSantis opts for a statewide race, with the GOP winner becoming the general election favorite. While Ms. Soderberg may prove to be a credible general election candidate, she will be a decided underdog in this north/central Florida CD.

ME-2: It’s unlikely that we will see a third campaign between two-term Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) and former state Sen. Emily Cain (D). But, another failed two-time candidate is stepping forward. Construction business owner Jonathan Fulford (D), who supported Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, declared his congressional candidacy this week. In the last two elections, Mr. Fulford lost close contests to state Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R). The 2nd District has been traditionally Democratic, but Poliquin scored the upset win in 2014, and then increased his victory margin last November. The Congressman already has well over $1.1 million in his bank account, meaning he will be well prepared to run another strong re-election campaign.

MI-7: It appears we will see a re-match in Michigan’s 7th CD next year. Former state Representative Gretchen Driskell (D), despite losing to Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton/Jackson) by 15 percentage points, will return for another campaign. Mr. Walberg was first elected in 2006 after defeating then-Rep. Joe Schwarz (R) in the Republican primary. He lost the seat two years later, but regained it in 2010 and has held ever since. The 7th was re-drawn in 2011 to give the GOP congressman more favorable territory.

MN-2: Last November, Democratic healthcare executive Angie Craig was widely expected to convert then-retiring Rep. John Kline’s (R) politically marginal southeastern Minneapolis suburban US House district. But, former radio talk show host Jason Lewis and the GOP voting base came to a different conclusion and Craig went down to a close defeat despite raising and spending almost $4 million, translating into a 4:1 resource advantage over her Republican opponent. This week, Ms. Craig announced she will try again. Mr. Lewis surprised most people with his strength as a campaigner and was one of the most under-rated winners of the 2016 election cycle. The new Congressman has raised well over $550,000 in his first two quarters as an incumbent, an amount representing more than half of what he spent during his original campaign.

NM-2: State Land Commissioner and former congressional candidate Aubrey Dunn (R) announced that he will enter the open 2nd Congressional District race next year. Incumbent Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) declared for Governor last week, thus opening the district for the 2018 election. Already in the GOP primary is state Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-Alamogordo). The district encompasses virtually the entire state south of the Albuquerque metropolitan area. The electorate votes generally Republican (Trump: 50-40%), but did elect a Democrat, Harry Teague, for one term the last time the district was open (2008).

Governor

Nebraska: Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) has drawn his first announced 2018 challenger. Republican state Senator Bob Krist announced his challenge to Gov. Ricketts, but not the in the GOP primary…nor, will he run as a Democrat. Instead, Sen. Krist is forming his own political party under Nebraska election law and will attempt to qualify for the ballot as a general election third party candidate.

Nevada: Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) has had the early Republican gubernatorial field mostly to himself this year, but that may soon change. State Treasurer Dan Schwartz is confirming that he will file a gubernatorial exploratory committee in August, with the expectation of kicking off an official campaign for Governor in September. Mr. Schwartz was elected Treasurer in 2014, scoring a 51-41% victory margin. He is eligible to seek re-election, but looks to be eschewing that opportunity for the gubernatorial run.

New Mexico: US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-Albuquerque) appears well on her way to locking up the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Late last week, businessman and 2014 statewide candidate Alan Webber said he will not run for Governor next year and instead endorses Rep. Grisham. Earlier, Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) did the same. The position is open in 2018 because Gov. Susana Martinez (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. US Rep. Steve Pearce (R-Hobbs) appears to be coalescing support for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Ohio: According to a Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper columnist close to the subject, Consumer Financial Protection Board director Richard Cordray (D), a former Ohio Attorney General, “is certain” to run for Governor and will enter the open race no later than September. Mr. Cordray is the first and only CFPB director. The organization was the brainchild of then-Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren. President Obama nominated her as the first Board director, but she could not overcome Republican confirmation opposition. The President then chose Mr. Cordray when it became obvious that Warren would fail to be confirmed. If Mr. Cordray does return to Ohio to run statewide, he will already face four Democratic gubernatorial opponents, including former US Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley) and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

South Carolina: Appointed Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant (R) is moving toward challenging Gov. Henry McMaster (R) in next year’s GOP statewide primary. Mr. Bryant, this week, formally launched a fundraising committee and will likely make a final decision about running sometime in August. Mr. McMaster, the elected Lt. Governor, ascended to the state’s top position when Gov. Nikki Haley (R) was appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Bryant was then chosen by the state legislature to replace McMaster. Former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill (R) is already an announced candidate. Gov. McMaster is expected to seek a full term.