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Period Ending September 8, 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: A new Southeast Research poll (8/29-31; 401 AL likely Republican run-off voters) again finds appointed Sen. Luther Strange badly trailing former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore for the special September 26 Republican run-off election. According to the Southeast numbers, which includes an evangelical contingent that comprises more than 79% of the total respondent sample, Judge Moore leads the race, 52-36%. The three polls that feature evangelicals making up more than 2/3 of the polling samples all find Moore leading by double-digits. Those that project a lower number for this particular religious segment find tighter results. The latter polls also position the former Judge in first place, however. There is no public poll that posts Sen. Strange to an advantage.

West Virginia: A Repass and Research America Inc. poll for West Virginia Metro News (8/11-20; 400 WV likely voters drawn from each of the state’s 55 counties) finds Sen. Joe Manchin (D) faring well against both of his Republican competitors. Opposite Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington), the Senator posts a 50-40% advantage. If Attorney General Patrick Morrisey were the Republican nominee, Sen. Manchin would have slightly more support. The ballot test in this latter configuration is 52-37%.

Wisconsin: As expected, based upon comments made last week, state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) announced her US Senate candidacy. Already in the race with heavy financial backing is businessman Kevin Nicholson. Venture capitalist Eric Hovde, a 2012 Senate candidate, confirms he is still considering entering next year’s contest. The eventual Republican nominee will face first-term Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) in what is expected to be a competitive general election campaign. The Wisconsin primary will be scheduled for a date next August.

House

CO-3: Grand Junction City Councilman Chris Kennedy has joined state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs) in the Democratic congressional primary next year. This likely means four-term Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez/Western Slope) will face either a Kennedy or a Bush. Mr. Tipton has averaged more than 55% of the vote in his three re-election campaigns. The 3rd can be a competitive district but has voted consistently Republican since 2006. President Trump scored a 52-40% victory here last November despite losing the state, 43-48%.

MA-3: Erin Murphy Meehan (D), a hospital consultant who was formerly married to ex-Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Lowell), says she will not run for the open seat that Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) is leaving available. The Congresswoman last month announced that she will not seek re-election next year. No Democrat has yet declared his or her candidacy, but two Republican businessowners, Rick Green and Scott Gunderson, have announced. Daniel Koh (D), the recently resigned chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (D), has filed a congressional exploratory committee. The Democrats are certainly favored to hold the seat but with Gov. Charlie Baker (R) expected to win re-election, and therefore will carry this district, the stage could be set for a more competitive general election.

OK-1: Upon confirmation to his new position as the next NASA Administrator, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Tulsa) will resign his Tulsa-anchored congressional district meaning yet another special election could be scheduled in advance of the regular midterm vote. Five Republicans and no Democrats announced their candidacies before the Bridenstine appointment. Businessman Kevin Hern appears to have the most resources to bring to the campaign. Former Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, attorney Andy Coleman, and Baptist pastor Danny Stockstill comprise the current candidate field. We can expect more action now that the seat will likely be in special election mode.

PA-10: Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport), it was announced at the White House this week, will be nominated as the new Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position where the inhabitant is often referred to as the “drug czar.” Rep. Marino was supposed to be nominated earlier in the year, but held back because of a serious illness in his family. Should he be confirmed quickly, the northeastern Pennsylvania seat could also go to special election to fill the balance of the current term. Republicans would be favored to hold the seat. Mr. Marino has averaged 66.1% of the vote in his three re-election campaigns.

PA-15: Seven-term Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) surprisingly announced late Thursday that he will not seek re-election next year. Just before his decision to retire became public, state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Coopersburg) had officially launched his intra-party challenge. We can now expect vigorous open seat primaries in both parties. Rep. Dent is chairman of the House Ethics Committee. Before his election to Congress, he served 14 years in the Pennsylvania legislature.

TX-23: Former one-term Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), who has lost the last two consecutive elections to Texas Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), announced that he will not be a congressional candidate next year. The former Congressman had filed an FEC committee for 2017-18 and said he was hoping the federal redistricting decision would change the district boundaries to his, and the Democrats’, benefit. But, such did not happen, as the court did not alter this particular district. Responding to the judicial ruling, Mr. Gallego will yield to other Democratic candidates. Already announced are former federal prosecutor Jay Hulings, ex-San Antonio City Council candidate Rick Trevino, and Iraq War veteran and ex-US trade official Gina Ortiz Jones. Former state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D) is said to be weighing his political options with respect to this campaign.

WA-8: Seven-term Washington US Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Auburn) announced that he, too, will not seek re-election next year. Prior to winning his congressional seat in 2004, Mr. Reichert served in the King County Sheriff’s office for 33 years including eight in the top position. Just under 60% of the 8th District population resides in King County, with about a quarter living in Pierce County. Chelan and Kittitas Counties and part of Douglas are also included. The seat will likely feature a toss-up congressional race next year. Hillary Clinton carried the region last year with a 48-45% margin. President Obama defeated Mitt Romney here, 50-48%.

WI-1: The Global Strategy Group, polling for Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce, finds House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) with only tepid support from his southern Wisconsin constituency. According to the survey (8/22-24; 401 WI-1 likely voters), the Speaker would defeat the unknown Mr. Bryce by only 46-37% if the election were in the current period. Mr. Ryan’s favorability index is 50:41%, while 90% of the respondents had no familiarity with Mr. Bryce.

Governor

Alabama: Gov. Kay Ivey (R), who ascended to the Governor’s mansion when ex-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign over a plea bargain arrangement pertaining to campaign finance charges, formerly announced that she will seek a full term for the state’s top political position next year. Already, a large group of Republicans have declared for the race, including state Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and State Auditor Jim Zeigler. State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle are also serious contenders. A total of nine candidates, including the new Governor, are now officially in the Republican primary.

Hawaii: Over the holiday weekend, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) announced that she will challenge Gov. David Ige in next year’s Democratic primary. Gov. Ige scored a huge primary win in 2014, defeating Gov. Neil Abercrombie with 67% of the vote, and now Rep. Hanabusa will attempt to repeat history next year. Doing so would be even more extraordinary in Hawaii, before an electorate that rarely defeats incumbents. Prior to unseating Gov. Abercrombie, Mr. Ige served for 30 years in the Hawaii state legislature. This primary will be hotly contested.

Maine: Two state legislative leaders are on the verge of hopping into the Governor’s race. State House Minority Leader Ken Fredette (R-Newport), an ally of Gov. Paul LePage (R), formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee but left no doubt that he is planning to run. State Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason (R-Lisbon Falls), who was an active supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in the 2016 Maine presidential primary, is also planning to soon announce his statewide candidacy. Both men are from the Republican Party’s conservative wing. Should Sen. Susan Collins (R) become a gubernatorial contender, and she says a decision will be forthcoming in the fall, the new candidate configuration, including former Health & Human Services Department Secretary Mary Mayhew, would help divide the conservative base thus possibly allowing the centrist Senator to attract enough support to win the nomination.

Nevada: It had appeared that Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) would have the Republican gubernatorial primary largely to himself, but that changed this week. State Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who scored a 51-41% open seat victory to secure his first statewide elected office in 2014, founded several financial companies and has written two books about the global financial sector. Mr. Schwartz will have capital to invest in his campaign, and may have appeal for the state’s more moderate Republican voters. Mr. Laxalt remains the favorite to capture the nomination, but the contest will now feature a serious primary. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is ineligible to seek a third term. The open Nevada Governor’s race will be highly competitive in the general election and must be regarded as a major toss-up campaign.