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Period Ending August 4, 2017

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


Alabama: A new Alabama special election US Senate survey conducted for the regional Raycom News Network (Research Strategies, Inc. (Mobile, AL); 7/24; 3,000 AL registered voters) stakes appointed Sen. Luther Strange to a two-point lead over former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, 35-33%. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) trails with 16%, but his advertising campaign is just now moving to high gear for the final push before the August 15 primary vote. But, the biggest surprise finding comes on the Democratic side. There, Naval Academy graduate and retired officer Robert Kennedy Jr., has opened up a surprising 49-28% advantage over Birmingham former US Attorney Doug Jones. If any candidate obtains majority support in the partisan primary, the winner automatically advances into the December 12 general election contest. If not, and this is likely for Republicans, the top two finishers advance to a September 26 run-off election.

Michigan: A new Trafalgar Group survey (7/25-27; 1,078 MI likely voter respondents from more than 50,000 attempted contacts), finds entertainer Robert Ritchie, aka Kid Rock, pulling into a dead heat with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). According to the Trafalgar numbers, Stabenow would lead Ritchie only 43-41%. When those professing to be “leaning” to one candidate or the other are added to the tally, Ritchie actually pulls ahead, 49-46%. A Target-Insyght poll (released to the LA Times 7/31; 800 MI likely voters) finds Ritchie not doing as well as the Trafalgar poll suggests, but is still strong for a challenger candidate. According to T-I, the Senator leads Ritchie 50-42%.

Montana: Republican leaders have been working to recruit a statewide officeholder to challenge two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D), and now look to have found him. State Insurance Commissioner and Auditor Matt Rosendale (R) announced this week that he will enter the race to challenge the Democratic incumbent. Though GOP strategists will rate this as a top tier challenger race, Sen. Tester must be categorized as a distinct favorite for re-election even when considering he has failed to reach the majority support level in his two previous successful statewide runs. Sen. Tester unseated incumbent Senator Conrad Burns (R) in 2006, and then turned back six-term at-large Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Billings) six years later.

Pennsylvania: An Associated Press story is asserting that Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) has decided to enter the US Senate campaign and will make a public announcement shortly. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler/Erie), another House member who had been reportedly looking at the statewide campaign, has decided to remain in the House and announced for re-election. So far, state Reps. Steve Saccone and Jim Christiana are in the Senate Republican primary, but have raised little money. Businessmen Jeff Bartos and Paul Addis are also announced candidates. Mr. Bartos has raised the most campaign capital so far, holding more than $1 million in his account. The eventual Republican nominee will challenge Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), who has announced for a third term.


FL-26: Two-term Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami), who fared poorly in the mid-decade redistricting plan the Florida state Supreme Court enacted before the last election yet still won impressively last November, has drawn his first 2018 opponent. Defeated state Senate candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a consulting firm president, announced yesterday her congressional candidacy. The Democratic nature of this South Florida district is prototypical of a seat that must be in play if the party is to have any chance of unseating the Republican majority.

MD-6: Just before last weekend began, Maryland three-term Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) announced that he will run for President in 2020, and thus will not seek re-election next year. He had been considered a potential gubernatorial candidate but will not enter that race, either. Since Delaney had been speculated upon as a gubernatorial candidate, two Democratic state legislators, Majority Leader Bill Frick and state Del. Aruna Miller, had already been organizing their congressional campaigns. After Delaney made his presidential decision public, former 8th District candidate and Total Wine stores owner David Trone and state Sen. Roger Manno (D-Montgomery County) announced their 6th District congressional candidacies. Democrats are favored to hold the seat, but Delaney’s close call (50-48%) in 2014 gives Republicans some hope of becoming competitive here.

NC-9: Charlotte pastor Mark Harris (R), who has run for both the US Senate and House, just announced that he will seek a Republican primary re-match with Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte). When North Carolina was forced to re-draw its congressional map before the 2016 election, Rep. Pittenger found himself in a new 9th District with more than 60% new territory. Considering this, and with his business under FBI investigation, the Congressman barely slipped passed Rev. Harris with a scant 134-vote margin in the 2016 GOP primary. With the FBI dropping their active inquiry without seeking charges and Pittenger being more familiar with the district, Mr. Harris’ chances of winning in 2018 appear to be lesser. This primary, however, will be a competitive battle.

TN-2: Veteran Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. (R-Knoxville) announced that he will not seek re-election next year. The Congressman was first elected in a 1988 special election succeeding his father, Rep. John J. Duncan Sr. (R), who held the seat for 23 years until his death. The current Rep. Duncan is now serving his 15th term in Congress, a longevity record for this central-east Tennessee region. Before Mr. Duncan made public his retirement decision, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett (R) had scheduled a political announcement for later in the week. He is expected to declare his congressional candidacy. Republicans have held what evolved into the 2nd District since 1866 and are unlikely to lose here in 2018.

TX-23: Former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz Jones (D) announced her congressional candidacy this week. In the Democratic primary, she may well face former Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine) who has lost his last two congressional contests to incumbent Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio) and has already filed an exploratory committee for the coming election. It is likely we will not see much political movement here until after the next round of court-ordered redistricting changes for this district, boundaries that a three-judge federal panel have already deemed unconstitutional. Currently, the seat stretches all the way from San Antonio to El Paso, and is the one swing district in the Texas delegation. Mr. Hurd defeated former Rep. Gallego, 48-47% last November, after unseating him 50-48% in 2014.


Colorado: Donna Lynne (D), who was appointed in March of last year to replace resigned Lt. Governor Joe Garcia, yesterday declared that she will enter the crowded Democratic primary for Governor. Ms. Lynne came to the state office from her position as executive Vice President of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., but has spent half of her professional career in the public sector. She joins US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston, and businessmen Adam Garrity, Noel Ginsburg, and Erik Underwood as major Democratic primary candidates. Aurora regional District Attorney George Brauchler is the leading Republican contender. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Oregon: State Rep. Knute Buehler, who has been raising money in a gubernatorial exploratory committee for many weeks, announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for Governor. If successful, he will undoubtedly again oppose Gov. Kate Brown (D). The two ran against each other for Secretary of State in 2012, a re-election campaign that Ms. Brown won, 51-43%. Gov. Brown ascended to her position when Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) resigned over a budding ethics scandal. Oregon has no Lt. Governor, so the Secretary of State becomes the acting Governor if a vacancy occurs in the state’s top elected position. Ms. Brown was then elected in 2016 to serve the balance of the current term. She will be heavily favored for re-election to a full four-year term in 2018.

South Carolina: Last week, new Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant (R) announced that he had filed a gubernatorial committee but said he had not yet fully decided whether to run for Governor. Now, he has made such a decision. Mr. Bryant will challenge new South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster in next year’s Republican primary. Mr. McMaster became Governor in late January when Nikki Haley was confirmed as US Ambassador to the United Nations and resigned her chief executive post. Mr. McMaster, the state’s Lt. Governor, ascended to the Governor’s position. To replace him, the state legislature elected four-term state Sen. Bryant (R-Anderson) during the same time frame. Additionally, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and state Labor Department Secretary Catherine Templeton are already in the Republican primary race. South Carolina hosts a June primary.

Tennessee: For the second time this week, a member of the Tennessee congressional delegation announced that he or she would not seek re-election. Earlier, 15-term Rep. Jimmy Duncan (R-Knoxville) said he will not run in 2018 in order to retire from public life. Now, four-term Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) is vacating her congressional post to enter the open Governor’s race. Rep. Black, chair of the House Budget Committee, will be a strong candidate in the GOP primary, and arguably begins the campaign as the favorite. In her announcement video, she aligned herself with the party’s conservative wing, and looks to be taking strong, unequivocal positions on the campaign trail. She becomes the seventh Republican in the race. Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

West Virginia: At a presidential rally featuring Mr. Trump, West Virginia Democratic Gov. Jim Justice announced that he is switching to the Republican Party. Mr. Justice, the state’s richest individual who made a fortune in the coal and hotel industries, ran as a conservative in the 2016 open election and defeated state Senate President Bill Cole (R), 49-42%. Gov. Justice becoming a Republican drops the Democrats to holding just 15 state chief executive positions, while the GOP now increases to 34. Alaska’s Bill Walker is the nation’s lone Independent Governor.