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Period Ending August 25, 2017

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

Senate

Alabama: JMC Analytics released the first post-special primary poll (8/17-19; 515 AL GOP likely run-off voters) and found former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) running far ahead of appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R). According to the data that seem to over-sample evangelicals (an element that definitely helps Moore), the former Judge is running away from the appointed Senator, 51-32%. The key to the poll, and the election from Moore’s perspective, is converting the preponderance of Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-Huntsville) supporters. Mr. Brooks finished third with 20% of the vote. This poll suggests that the Congressman’s voters are headed heavily to Moore: 52-29%, from the Huntsville area, alone. Three days later, Opinion Savvy (8/22; 494 AL GOP run-off likely voters via landline and mobile telephone interviews) tested the Republican electorate and found virtually the same result. The OS tally finds Moore’s advantage to be an almost identical 50-32%. And, they also see the critical Huntsville area breaking heavily toward Moore in the same manner as JMC detected.

Arizona: A new HighGround Public Affairs Consulting poll (8/18-19; 400 AZ registered voters; 273 self-identified Republican voters) finds Sen. Jeff Flake (R) languishing when paired with his announced Republican primary challenger and a potential general election opponent. The poll is skewed regarding the Republican primary vote because the sample size of 273 is too low for a state the size of Arizona. That being said, the ballot test finds Sen. Flake trailing former state Sen. Kelli Ward, 28-42%. If Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), reportedly now seriously considering entering the Senate race, were to become the statewide Democratic nominee she would top the Senator, 40-32%, in a hypothetical general election ballot test. If Ward defeated Flake in the primary and was then paired opposite Rep. Sinema for the November election, the Democrat would have only a 32-31% edge.

Massachusetts: Beth Lindstrom (R), the former Massachusetts state Lottery Director, joined the growing field of Republican challengers hoping to compete against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) next year. The most prominent among the eight already running is state Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Norwell). Due to the 2020 presidential overtones this race could feature, the eventual GOP nominee should be able to raise significant national money. The MA-Senate campaign could become a race to watch even though Sen. Warren is a prohibitive favorite for re-election.

House

CO-7: Confirming predictions that Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) would again reverse course about his 2018 political future and run for re-election, the Congressman officially announced this week that he is officially back in the race. Four Democrats had been running to succeed him when the seat appeared to be open, and three immediately dropped out. State Sens. Dominick Moreno (D-Adams County) and Andy Kerr (D-Jefferson County) along with state Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Jefferson County) each quickly said after Perlmutter made his announcement that they would withdraw from the congressional race. Former US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Dan Baer is less committal about deferring to Perlmutter.

FL-27: Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera (R) announced this week that he will not become a candidate in the open south Florida congressional district. Mr. Lopez-Cantera had been a US Senate candidate in 2016 until Sen. Marco Rubio (R) decided to run for re-election. Once Rubio reversed his retirement plans, Lopez-Cantera deferred and withdrew from the race. The 27th is open because veteran Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami) is retiring after the current term. Democrats view this district at their best House national conversion opportunity.

IL-17: Local Quad Cities business owner Mark Kleine (R) announced his congressional candidacy against three-term Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline). Earlier in the year Rep. Bustos had considered entering the Governor’s race, but declined to move forward with a statewide campaign. The district has become a reliable one for Ms. Bustos, averaging 56% of the vote in three elections including defeating incumbent Rep. Bobby Schilling (R) in 2012. President Trump, however, carried the seat last November by less than one percentage point, representing a 17-point turnaround from Democrat to Republican since the 2012 presidential election. Speculation abounds that Rep. Bustos could be tabbed as a gubernatorial running mate after the statewide primary. If this were to occur, Mr. Kleine would be well positioned should this seat suddenly become open.

IN-6: There is a good possibility that members of two nationally known political families will square off in the Republican primary once Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) officially announces for the Senate. Greg Pence, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, says he will decide later in the year if he will seek the open seat. He is currently leading the fundraising efforts for Rep. Messer’s fledging statewide campaign. Closer to making a positive decision about running is businessman and former Senate aide David Willkie. The latter is the grandson of former presidential candidate Wendell Willkie (R-1940 GOP nominee; lost to President Franklin D. Roosevelt). The open 6th District, formerly the seat the Vice President represented when he was in the House, is expected to remain in Republican hands.

ME-2: State Rep. Jared Golden (D-Lewiston), the body’s Assistant Majority Leader, announced his congressional candidacy against two-term Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-Oakland/Bangor) in the sprawling 2nd Congressional District. Four other Democrats are already in the race, but Rep. Golden is clearly the strongest of the group. Mr. Poliquin won the seat in 2014, when incumbent Rep. Mike Michaud (D-East Millinocket) vacated the seat to run unsuccessfully for Governor. The Republican incumbent has twice defeated former state Sen. Emily Cain (D). The 2nd District supported President Trump in November, thus awarding him one electoral vote from Maine. The Pine Tree State and Nebraska are the only two places that split their allotted electoral votes. This race could become competitive next year. Rep. Poliquin already has $1.16 million cash-on-hand after raising and spending just about $3.5 million to win 53-44% last year.

MA-3: Last week, Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) announced that she would not seek a seventh term next year, meaning the north-central Massachusetts seat will be open and likely to host a competitive general election campaign. Under this background, the first serious candidate is stepping forward. Daniel Koh (D), chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, announced that he is resigning his position and will soon officially declare his congressional bid for Ms. Tsongas’ open seat.

MN-1: GOP state Rep. Joe Schomacker (R-Luverne) announced early this week that he will not enter the open 1st District congressional race next year. This still leaves 2012 and ’14 party nominee Jim Hagedorn as the lone GOP contender. Democrats have seven candidates vying to replace Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) who is running for Governor. In 2016, Mr. Hagedorn held Rep. Walz to 50.3% of the vote, making it the second-closest House race in the United States. The 2018 open contest is currently viewed as a toss-up. The district, anchored in the city of Rochester, stretches the entire width of Minnesota’s southern border.

NJ-5: Frequent candidate and former Bogota (NJ) Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) announced that he will challenge freshman Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wycoff) in the Bergen County-anchored congressional district next year. The 5th had been in Republican hands since Franklin Roosevelt was first elected President, but was lost last year when incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Sussex County) fell to Mr. Gottheimer. It is likely the Republican leadership will continue their recruitment efforts to find a stronger candidate.

TX-23: With the special three-judge federal panel surprisingly not changing the 23rd District boundaries as part of their new redistricting lawsuit ruling, movement is now occurring in Democratic circles about who will oppose two-term Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) next year. Former Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), who has lost the last two consecutive races to Mr. Hurd, is considering running but now will have company in the Democratic primary should he do so. On Monday, former federal prosecutor Jay Hulings (D) announced his candidacy, and is viewed as a credible candidate who will bring resources to his political effort. Defeated San Antonio City Council candidate and Bernie Sanders activist Rick Trevino also declared his congressional bid. Mr. Trevino failed to qualify for the 6th Council District run-off in early May by just 29 votes.

Governor

Alaska: The nation’s lone Independent Governor, Alaska’s Bill Walker, this week formally declared his intention to seek re-election and will again do as an unaffiliated candidate. Ben Stevens, the former Alaska State Senate President and son of the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R), is openly considering running for Governor next year. Mr. Stevens retired from elective politics in 2006 largely as part of the US Justice Department’s bribery case against his father, a trial verdict that was later overturned largely due to the law enforcement officials’ inappropriate actions that resulted in prosecutorial misconduct. Now, away from politics for more than 10 years, Mr. Stevens may be on the verge of re-emerging and will be a serious gubernatorial contender should he decide to make the challenge.

Florida: Former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter), who badly lost the 2016 US Senate race to incumbent Marco Rubio (R), had been considered as a possible candidate both for Governor or attempting to return to his former Atlantic Coast congressional seat. On Friday, Mr. Murphy confirmed that he will run for neither position next year. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the only current Democratic elected official in the open Governor’s race, and former one-term US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) has joined him. Businessman Chris King is also considered a serious Democratic contender. In Mr. Murphy’s former House seat, freshman Rep. Brian Mast (R-Palm City) converted the swing district in impressive fashion last November and appears as a strong bet for re-election.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker (R), after saying he would decide about running for a third term in one to two months, tweeted that he will be a candidate next year. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers (D), who last month opened a gubernatorial exploratory committee, is now formally challenging the Governor with his formal announcement earlier in the week. Mr. Evers was first elected to his statewide non-partisan position in 2009, re-elected in 2013, and again last April. Mr. Evers is the eighth Democrat to declare for Governor. Also in the field are Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), and state Assembly Representative Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire).