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Period Ending July 6, 2018

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


Michigan: Though venture capitalist Sandy Pensler has been spending heavily in the Republican primary - well over $1 million reportedly through the end of March of the over $5 million he injected into the campaign - a new Target Insyght survey for the Michigan Information and Research Service (6/24-26; 800 MI likely voters; 400 likely Democratic primary voters; 400 likely Republican primary voters) finds him clinging to only 32-29% lead over retired Army Ranger and manufacturing company owner John James.

But, Mr. Pensler countered by releasing a Strategic National poll (6/16-21; 1,000 MI registered voters), taken much earlier in the month. This data posted him to a 33-18% advantage. Looking at the polling pair, the results suggest that while Mr. Pensler still leads the primary race, Mr. James appears to be gaining ground.

Minnesota: The Outstate blog, the creation of former GOP congressional candidate Stewart Mills, recently commissioned a BK Strategies poll of the Minnesota statewide electorate (6/24-25; 1,574 MN likely voters). In the pair of US Senate campaigns, the Democratic incumbents enjoy leads over their potential Republican general election opponents.

Looking at the race that appears secure for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), who is seeking a third term, the incumbent begins with a sound 57-37% advantage over state Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker). The central Minnesota state legislator is one of four Republicans running, but the only one tested in the hypothetical November contest.

In what could develop into a competitive general election, appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) begins with a high single-digit lead over two-term state Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary's Point), 48-39%. Though Ms. Smith is the state's former Lt. Governor, running in the Senate race marks the first time she will individually appear on the Minnesota ballot.

Nevada: The new Gravis Marketing Nevada poll (6/23-26; 630 NV likely general election voters) finds Democratic US Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) taking a 45-41% lead over incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) in one of the nation's most critical US Senate races. Nevada is so important because it is one of two states -- Arizona being the other -- where Democrats begin on even footing in a Senate challenge campaign. To win the majority, Democrats must hold all 26 Senate seats they are defending, and then convert at least two Republican states, thus explaining why Nevada and Arizona potentially possess majority-defining status in this national midterm election.


KS-2: The crowded August 7th Republican primary is approaching in the district from which five-term Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) is retiring. The Mellman Group chose one of the seven GOP contenders, state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald (R-Leavenworth), as a proposed general election opponent for former state House Minority Leader and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis (D) in their latest poll (6/13-18; 600 KS-2 likely voters). In addition to Sen. Fitzgerald, a former state House Speaker, four sitting state legislators, a local official, and a defense contractor comprise the primary field.

According to the Mellman Group, a ballot test featuring Messrs. Davis and Fitzgerald would break 39-34% in Mr. Davis' favor, but this is well before the general election campaign has developed. Democrats view this as a top open seat conversion opportunity because Mr. Davis topped Gov. Sam Brownback (R) here by seven points in the last gubernatorial campaign. The fact that Mr. Davis doesn't even reach 40% from a district he carried against the then-incumbent Republican Governor suggests, however, that the partisan trend could change quickly once the GOP nominates a candidate.

MI-13: John Conyers III, who was disqualified from entering the August 7th Democratic congressional primary because he lacked a sufficient number of valid ballot petition signatures, will still apparently be present in the special and regular general elections to be held later this year. Mr. Conyers, and ten others are competing for the seat that Mr. Conyers' father, former 27-term Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit), resigned late last year. Though Mr. Conyers will not be competing in the special and regular Democratic primaries, he will enter the race as an Independent candidate.


Alaska: Businessman Scott Hawkins has decided to end his gubernatorial campaign despite being a major candidate for the Republican nomination because the race has so drastically changed in the past month. In addition to former US Sen. Mark Begich entering the Democratic primary just before the candidate filing deadline expired, the emergence of former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell as a Republican candidate altered the GOP picture.

On the Democratic side, ex-Gov. Tony Knowles (D) publicly endorsed former Sen. Begich. This move isn't surprising, but Mr. Knowles attack on Gov. Bill Walker (I), for what the former state chief executive claimed is a poor handling of the state's economy, is eye opening. Gov. Walker has been much more friendly to the Democrats than Republicans and even was prepared to enter the Democratic primary before ex-Sen. Begich entered the race. Additionally, the Alaska Survey Research poll, as reported here last week, placed Walker as running behind both Republican former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy and Mr. Begich (38-33-23%).

Arizona: An Arizona state court ruled in favor of the Arizona Republican Party, which challenged Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Kevin McCormick's ballot petitions. The GOP argued, and the court agreed, that Mr. McCormick did not submit the legally required number of signatures to obtain ballot position. It is unclear if Mr. McCormick or the Libertarian Party will appeal the ruling. Republicans generally don't want a Libertarian candidate on the ballot because they believe some conservative votes are diverted to such a contender instead of supporting the GOP nominee. First-term Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is seeking re-election. Though favored in November, this campaign could turn competitive.

Georgia: In the May 22nd Georgia Republican primary, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp advanced into the July 24th run-off election. According to a Cygnal polling firm survey (6/26-27; 812 GA likely Republican run-off voters), the two candidates have lapsed into a dead heat with a month of campaign time remaining. Cygnal sees Lt. Gov. Cagle holding just a 44-43% edge over Secretary of State Kemp when leaners are included. In terms of defined support, Mr. Kemp holds an identical one-point lead, 27-26%.

The Kemp Campaign then released their internal Public Opinion Strategies survey on July 1st (methodological information not available) that showed both candidates attracting 45% support, virtually confirming the Cygnal data. The run-off winner faces former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams in the general election. Ms. Abrams won the Democratic Party nomination outright in late May.

Louisiana: Speculation persists that US Senator John Kennedy (R) may enter next year's gubernatorial primary to challenge first-term incumbent John Bel Edwards (D). To encourage even more conjecture and publicity, Sen. Kennedy's political organization commissioned a new statewide Survey USA poll (6/19-22; 812 LA adults; 666 of whom are registered voters; 600 who voted in the 2016 presidential campaign).

In a three-way contest among Gov. Edwards, Sen. Kennedy, and US Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe), the two better-known office holders begin on even footing, and far ahead of the northern Louisiana Congressman. According to the S-USA data, Gov. Edwards and Sen. Kennedy would be tied at 35%, with Rep. Abraham badly trailing with 8% support. But, in a run-off between Gov. Edwards and Sen. Kennedy, which the first poll question suggests would happen, it is the Republican Senator who opens up a large lead, 51-37%.

Michigan: The aforementioned Target Insyght poll for the MIRS (see Michigan Senate above) released a series of numbers for the Governor's race. In a proposed general election campaign between Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) and former state House Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D), the GOP statewide office holder trails 37-42%. Both, however, command substantial advantages in their party primaries. For the Democrats, Ms. Whitmer has a solid 40-19-17% lead over businessman Shri Thanedar and former Detroit Health Department Director Abdul El-Sayed. For the Republicans, Mr. Schuette holds an equally strong 45-16% advantage over Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

Minnesota: The aforementioned BK Strategies poll (see Minnesota Senate above) tested two Democratic candidates against former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). In a previous question, the pollsters determined that Mr. Pawlenty is leading his officially endorsed Republican primary opponent as the state primary approaches on August 14th. The former two-term chief executive leads Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner who was the party's 2014 gubernatorial nominee, 54-20%.

Perhaps surprisingly, because Mr. Pawlenty previously won two statewide gubernatorial campaigns in adverse Republican election years, he trails both tested Democratic candidates in this BK poll. This includes US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) who only represents 1/8 of the state. According to the ballot test numbers, Attorney General Lori Swanson (D) is staked to a 46-41% edge over former Gov. Pawlenty. Rep. Walz performs even better, leading Mr. Pawlenty, 48-41%. Curiously, state Rep. Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), the officially endorsed DFL candidate, was not even tested in this particular survey.

Nevada: The previously mentioned Gravis Marketing Nevada poll (see Nevada Senate above) also surveyed the state's hotly contested open Governor's race. According to the Gravis numbers, Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) leads Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak (D), 43-41%. Tight results such as these can be expected here all the way to Election Day. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Rhode Island: Candidate filing closed this week, and Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) stands for a second term. Her opponents include former Secretary of State Matt Brown, who is her serious Democratic primary challenger, and ex-state Rep. Spencer Dickinson. Once coming through the September 12th Democratic primary, the nominee will likely face 2014 nominee Allan Fung, the Cranston Mayor who held Raimondo to a 41-36% win four years ago. State House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R-West Warwick) and former state Sen. Giovanni Feroce round out the Republican field. Five individuals are running as Independents or minor party candidates.

Tennessee: US Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) and businessman Randy Boyd each lead the Republican primary race for Governor according to two new polls. The Phoenix-based Data Orbital firm surveyed the Tennessee Republican electorate from June 27-30, questioning 700 likely Republican primary voters through the Interactive Voice Response system. They find Rep. Black leading businessman Mr. Boyd by a single point, 24-23% for the August 2nd Republican primary, with a large 24% factor saying they are undecided. Businessman Bill Lee is third with 19%, followed by state House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), who receives 10% support.

But, the Triton Polling & Research firm, surveying for the Tennessee Star newspaper (6/25-28; 1,040 TN likely GOP primary voters; Interactive Voice Response) sees the race completely differently. According to Triton, it is Mr. Boyd who leads the contest, and by a more substantial 33-27% over Rep. Black. Mr. Lee is again in third place, this time with 20% support, and Speaker Harwell follows with only 7% backing.