Election Insights
Election Insights is a political analysis publication of the Business Industry Political Action Committee (BIPAC). BIPAC is an independent, bipartisan organization, that is supported by several hundred of the nation’s leading businesses and trade associations.  The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the views of our organization.


February 23, 2018
Pennsylvania Court Map Released, More Open Seats and Latest Polling Updates  
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Maryland: A new Goucher Poll (2/12-17; 800 MD adults; 658 MD registered voters) finds Sen. Ben Cardin (D) crushing convicted US spy Chelsea Manning in the upcoming June 26th Democratic primary. According to the Goucher data, Sen. Cardin begins the race with a 61-17% advantage, which is likely an insurmountable margin for the challenger to overcome. Sen. Cardin is seen as a sure bet to be re-nominated and win a third term in the general election.

Mississippi: JMC Analytics & Polling surveyed the Mississippi Republican electorate to determine Sen. Roger Wicker's (R) strength for re-nomination. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville), who came close to upending Sen. Thad Cochran (R) in the 2014 nomination process, still has not ruled out running this year. JMC tested the Senator and Mr. McDaniel in their latest survey (2/15-17; 500 MS potential Republican primary voters) and found the incumbent leading his potential challenger, 38-20%. Though Sen. Wicker has a large lead among those decided, 42% reporting that they are undecided is a large number for a race involving a multi-term incumbent. Time, however, is running out. The candidate filing deadline is March 1st, in preparation for the June 5th primary election.

Tennessee: With early polling showing him faring poorly against Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) in the August Republican primary, former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) decided to end his statewide effort. In doing so, Mr. Fincher publicly encouraged Sen. Bob Corker (R) to run for re-election. The Senator, publicly reconsidering whether to reverse his retirement decision, promises to make an announcement about his future political plans very shortly.

WPA Intelligence, polling for the Defend the President PAC (2/13-15; 500 TN likely voters; 400 over-sample of Republican likely primary voters) finds Rep. Blackburn crushing Sen. Corker, 55-26%, in a head-to-head GOP contest. In terms of favorability, Sen. Corker scored an upside down 43:47% positive to negative rating among Republicans, while Rep. Blackburn recorded a 40:26% ratio. In an early general election pairing with presumed Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen (D), the state's former Governor and Nashville ex-Mayor, Ms. Blackburn seizes a 44-39% edge.

House

CA-25:A new ALG Research survey (2/11-15; 500 CA-25 likely jungle primary voters) finds Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) placing first in the upcoming June 5th jungle primary with 43% voter preference. Attorney Bryan Caforio (D), who lost to Mr. Knight 53-47% in the 2016 general election despite Hillary Clinton carrying the seat by almost seven percentage points, places second with 19%. Non-profit group executive Katie Hill (D) is next with 10%, followed by geologist Jess Phoenix (D) at 7 percent. Under California election law, the top two finishers regardless of political party affiliation advance to the general election.

CA-50:With Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine/San Diego County) under an FBI investigation for misuse of campaign funds, a new Republican candidate announced that he is entering the congressional campaign and will compete in the June jungle primary. El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells (R) is now in the race, obviously attempting to position himself in case the legal system soon strikes at Rep. Hunter. Four Democrats have declared, two of whom have raised more than $450,000. The 50th District is safely Republican, but that could change if Rep. Hunter soon faces a federal indictment. Retiring Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is a possible GOP candidate here, should Mr. Hunter not file. So is former San Diego City Councilman and ex-Mayoral and congressional candidate Carl DeMaio.

FL-17:On the heels of Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND-AL) eschewing re-election to challenge Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) and becoming the 55th House member not to run for another term, Florida Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Okeechobee) added his name to the burgeoning retirement list with his announcement that he won't run for a sixth term.   President Trump carried this district, 62-35% in the 2016 campaign, and Mr. Rooney has averaged 61.2% of the vote since the expansive central-south district was reconfigured in its present form. The Florida candidate filing deadline is not until May 4th in preparation for the August 28th primary election, so much time remains for political maneuvering in what should be a safe Republican district.

NJ-11:State Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-Boonton Township) announced this week that he will not enter the open northern New Jersey congressional race that House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) is vacating. Instead, Mr. Bucco endorsed fellow Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Parsippany). In another part of the district, however, investment banker Antony Ghee, with the support of key Republican Party leaders in Passaic and Essex County, announced that he would run. The 11th District race is expected to be hotly contested in November. Two Democrats appear as the leading candidates in their party primary. Attorney Mikie Sherrill and businesswoman Tamara Harris have each amassed a sizable campaign treasury.

ND-AL:With at-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) reversing course and joining the Senate race, state Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton) has now also changed political direction. As expected, Mr. Campbell, who had been campaigning for the Senate nomination for the better part of a year, will now enter the open at-large House campaign, attempting to succeed Rep. Cramer. Former state Republican Party chairman Gary Emineth, who briefly became a Senate candidate before receiving information that Rep. Cramer would himself run, will not enter the open House race.   The April state party endorsement convention will go a long way toward deciding who competes in the November open seat campaign.

Pennsylvania:The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court released its new congressional map and, as expected, legal challenges are already emerging. The Republicans are launching a federal lawsuit against this new draw in an attempt to attract the US Supreme Court's involvement. The high court failed to previously involve itself because the Democrats' lawsuit was filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution. Now that a different map has been set in place, a new set of legal challenges can begin. The Supreme Court has stayed similar recent redistricting cases in Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas, all awaiting a decision on the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, so Pennsylvania Republicans are launching a similar appeal in hopes of receiving similar consideration.

Ironically, two organizations that were prominent in urging the state Supreme Court to overturn the Pennsylvania congressional districts now also may file lawsuits over the replacement map. Representatives from both Common Cause and the NAACP are objecting to minorities being packed into one Philadelphia district when they currently have majority minority status in two under the invalidated plan.

The new map appears to have eight safe Republican and five clear Democratic districts. The remaining five seats are highly competitive, and each could become toss-up campaigns. The incumbents with the most difficult draws are Reps. Ryan Costello (R-West Chester), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown), Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley), and Matt Cartwright (D-Moosic/ Scranton). The new 7th District of retiring Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) is also a pure toss-up.

Governor

Kansas:Prominent oil businessman and former congressional candidate Wink Hartman (R) withdrew from the Republican gubernatorial primary yesterday and endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The two, and several others, are opposing new Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who replaced former Gov. Sam Brownback (R) who accepted a federal appointment. Mr. Hartman said he is leaving the race in order to help avoid splitting the primary vote that would allow Gov. Colyer to win the nomination with only plurality support.

Illinois:The Global Strategy Group conducted a new poll for venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker (2/9-13; 802 IL likely Democratic primary voters), who has already invested a reported $56 million into his gubernatorial campaign. According to these results, Mr. Pritzker holds a 37-23-21% lead over businessman Chris Kennedy, son of former Attorney General and US Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Chicago).

Afterward, Sen. Biss released his ALG Research survey (2/6-11; 500 IL likely Democratic primary voters), which presents results that aren't too different from Pritzker's release. According to ALG, Mr. Pritzker leads Sen. Biss and Mr. Kennedy, 32-24-24%. Thus, we have two candidate polls both showing the race getting tighter despite heavy spending from Pritzker, but with the leader maintaining a significant edge. The Illinois primary is March 20th, so this campaign is just entering the prime time phase.

Maryland:The same Goucher Poll cited above in the Maryland Senate section also tested the upcoming Governor's race. Incumbent Republican Larry Hogan, despite representing one of America's most Democratic states, still enjoys a strong 61% positive favorability rating. In the race for the Democratic nomination, three candidates are bunched near the top, but no one with clear strong support.

Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker is first with 19%, followed by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz who registers 12% backing. Trailing both is former NAACP president Ben Jealous at 10 percent. No other candidate even reaches the 4% plateau. Clearly, this Democratic primary contest is wide open.

Missouri:Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted on one felony count of invasion of privacy in relation to transmitting via a computer a non-consented upon photo of a partially nude woman with whom he was engaged in an extra-marital affair. If convicted, the Class E felony could carry a maximum four-year prison sentence. Gov. Greitens vows to fight the charge. His next court appearance is March 16th. If convicted or forced to resign as part of a plea bargain, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson (R) will assume the office. He would serve the balance of the term that will extend through 2020.

Texas:The Texas Tribune sponsored a primary election poll in anticipation of the state's first-in-the-nation midterm primary scheduled for March 6th.   According to the survey (YouGov; 2/1-12; 1,200 TX adults; 633 modeled Republican primary voters; 517 modeled Democratic primary voters; an over-sample of 424 confirmed primary voters were added to the respective party samples; weighted sampling universe), Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has opened a 43-24% lead over businessman Andrew White, son of former Gov. Mark White, in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. The winner faces an uphill battle against first-term incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R).


February 16, 2018
Weekly Rundown - Polls, Campaigns and Candidates Emerge  
by Jim Ellis

Senate

California: 

The Public Policy Institute of California released the results of their statewide voter poll (1/21-30; 1,705 CA adults; 1,367 CA registered voters; 1,042 CA likely voters) and tested only Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) in the upcoming US Senate race as part of their extensive questionnaire. According to the ballot test question asked to the self-described likely voters, Sen. Feinstein would lead the Los Angeles state legislative leader, by a commanding 46-17%. Additionally, recent year-end cash-on-hand figures find Sen. Feinstein holding $9.8 million in her campaign account as compared to state Sen. de Leon's $359,000.

Montana:  

WPA Intelligence just completed a Montana Senate Republican primary survey (2/5-6; 401 MT likely GOP primary voters) and finds state Auditor Matt Rosendale jumping out to a double-digit lead over businessman Troy Downing, retired state judge Russell Fagg, and state Sen. Al Olszewski. According to the WPA data, Mr. Rosendale has a 28-12-11-5% advantage over the other three in the listed order. Other also-ran candidates record less than 4 percent. The winner of the June Republican primary faces two-term Sen. Jon Tester (D) in what is forecast as a difficult challenger campaign.

Tennessee:

Signs are clearly growing that Sen. Bob Corker (R) is considering reversing his retirement decision. Staff is now confirming that the Senator is conducting meetings to assess his re-election chances, and he is even going so far as attempting to repair his broken relationship with President Trump after the two exchanged heated words during the past few months.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) already has amassed a little over $4.6 million and led Mr. Corker substantially in the Senate Conservatives Fund poll (2/12-13; 600 TN likely Republican primary voters) that tested them in a hypothetical one-on-one match-up. According to the results, Ms. Blackburn has a 49-26% advantage over the two-term incumbent. The third Republican candidate, former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) posted only 9% support. The candidate filing deadline is April 5, with the Tennessee primary occurring August 2.

West Virginia:

In a Harper Polling survey released on Friday (2/5-6; 500 WV likely Republican primary voters via automated device for the Jenkins campaign), Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) leads Attorney General Patrick Morrisey 33-25%, with Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship still having 12% preference. So far, Mr. Morrisey has a slight combined edge in fundraising.   The two-term Attorney General has raised $1.4 million, while an unconnected Super PAC supporting his candidacy banked an additional $470,000.  The campaign's cash-on-hand total is $1.1 million. Rep. Jenkins raised $1.1 million and has $1.4 million in the bank counting a transfer from his House campaign account. The primary race will be decided May 8th and promises to be a highly competitive campaign.   The winner will then challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in the general election.

House

AZ-2:With Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) leaving this politically marginal district to run for the Senate, Democratic conversion chances are enhanced. Former state Rep. Matt Heinz (D), who lost 57-43% to Rep. McSally in 2016, is running again and brandishes a Public Policy Polling survey that suggests he would fare better in an open general election than former 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff). According to Heinz's data (2/8-10; 841 AZ-2 registered voters), he would lead Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Lea Marquez Peterson (R), by a 45-31% margin. In comparison, Ms. Kirkpatrick's advantage over the lone announced Republican candidate would be 43-34%. But, the former nominee is considerably behind ex-Rep. Kirkpatrick in campaign resources, and he did not release early Democratic primary numbers from the survey. The latest FEC report finds the former Congresswoman holding $463,977 in her campaign account, versus only $193,117 for Mr. Heinz.

FL-9/11:Irascible former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) confirmed yesterday he will again run for the House of Representatives. The ex-Congressman originally won his seat in 2008 when he scored a 52-48% victory over then-Rep. Ric Keller (R-Orlando) in the first Obama year. Two years later, current Rep. Dan Webster (R-Clermont) unseated Rep. Grayson in the Republican wave election. After Florida gained two seats in reapportionment, one of which went to the central part of the state, Mr. Grayson returned in 2012 to the new 9th District. He departed in 2016 to run unsuccessfully for Senate, losing to then-Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) in the Democratic primary. Several weeks ago, Mr. Grayson filed a new congressional committee for the 11th CD, which would again pit him against Rep. Webster in a Republican district, but the conventional wisdom is suggesting that he will actually challenge freshman Rep. Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) for the seat he formerly represented.

HI-1:Former one-term US Rep. Charles Djou (R-Honolulu) was one of the individuals looking to enter the open 1st Congressional District race now that incumbent Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) is challenging Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary. In an announcement earlier this week, Mr. Djou said he will not become a congressional candidate in 2018, preferring to launch another run for Mayor of Honolulu in the 2020 election.

MA-7:Last month, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley launched her Democratic primary challenge to veteran Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville). The MassInc Polling Group, surveying the 7th District Democratic primary electorate for WBUR Public Radio in Boston (2/9-11; 402 MA-7 registered voters) found Rep. Capuano jumping out to an early 47-35% advantage when counting respondents who support and lean toward each candidate. Both individuals are highly rated. Rep. Capuano has a 60:7% favorability ratio, while Ms. Pressley scores a solid 42:7%. Ms. Pressley is carrying the Boston precincts, while the Congressman is overwhelming her outside of the state's largest city. But, this race has a long way to go. The primary won't happen until September 4th.

MN-8: Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) became the 54th US Representative to not seek re-election in the next special or regular election. The impending 2018 campaign was already viewed as a toss-up because the last two contests between Rep. Nolan and businessman Stewart Mills (R) were decided by a percentage point or less. With Mr. Mills not in the 2018 race, Republicans were looking to St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, a former professional hockey player. Now, however, Mr. Mills may return, and both parties can expect crowded nomination competition for an open seat that either side has a strong chance to win.

PA-18:Monmouth University released their latest study of the western Pennsylvania electorate with a month remaining in the 18th District special election campaign. According to the poll (2/12-14; 320 PA-18 likely special election voters), state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) would lead Democrat Conor Lamb across the turnout spectrum. His worst numbers based upon various turnout models was a 49-46% spread. In a separate occurrence, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) remained silent as to whether his committee will be supplying Lamb with further financial support. The special election is scheduled for March 13th.

UT-2:John Sittner, who founded the nationally known Ancestry.com company, has filed a congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. Though he has not yet announced as an official candidate, he has certainly taken the first step toward becoming one. Mr. Sittner, registered as an Independent, hopes to challenge three-term Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Farmington/Salt Lake City) in the general election. President Trump carried the expansive 2nd District, 46-27% with Independent Evan McMillan receiving a substantial 21.5% of the vote.

Governor

Alabama: When the Alabama candidate filing closed at the end of last week, local political observers were surprised that state Sen. Slade Blackwell (R-Birmingham) did not file for re-election and instead hopped into the Governor's primary at the last moment. Then, he apparently had second thoughts. Just four days after entering the Governor's campaign, Sen. Blackwell announced he is ending his fledgling effort. Therefore, the state legislator will be out of elective politics beginning next year.

Kansas:Jeff Colyer (R), recently sworn in as Governor after former incumbent Sam Brownback (R) was confirmed to his federal position, this week replaced himself as Lt. Governor. Mr. Colyer named businessman Tracey Mann (R) as the state's new LG, and further announced that the latter man will join him on the Republican ticket as his running mate for the fall election. The pair must first clinch the GOP nomination in an August 7th campaign when they will face Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, ex-state Sen. Jim Barnett, and oil businessman Wink Hartman among others. Democrats are looking to former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, ex-state Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty, state House Minority Leader Jim Ward (D-Wichita), or state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) to become their standard bearer.

Minnesota:Both former state House Speaker Paul Thissen and ex-St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced that they are dropping their respective bids for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The move means five candidates are left in the field, led by US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), and state Auditor Rebecca Otto. Local Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the 2014 Republican nominee, appears to be the GOP early leader, but that could quickly change if former Gov. Tim Pawlenty decides to enter this race.   As previously reported, Mr. Pawlenty is holding meetings to assess his chances in a new statewide race. The former Governor and short-term presidential candidate served as Minnesota's chief executive from 2003-2011.

New Hampshire:In the 2016 open seat gubernatorial campaign, Republican Chris Sununu defeated Democrat Colin Van Ostern, 49-47%. Both men were members of the state's five-member Executive Council that, among other duties, exercises a check over the Governor's veto authority. Late this week, Mr. Van Ostern announced that he will not challenge Gov. Sununu in 2018. According to the latest survey from the University of New Hampshire, the first-term Governor was leading his former opponent, 41-31%.

New York:State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Geneva) ended his campaign for Governor. This leaves state Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) and Erie County Executive Joel Giambra as the lone contenders for the Republican nomination. Sen. DeFrancisco now becomes the favorite to advance into the general election, but an upset of two-term Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) appears highly unlikely.

South Dakota:A budding primary contest between at-large US Rep. Kristi Noem (R-Castlewood) and Attorney General Marty Jackley is underway culminating in a June 5th election, and Moore Information went into the Republican field to test the gubernatorial candidates. The survey (2/8; 300 SD likely Republican primary voters) found Ms. Noem opening with a 40-35% edge over the Attorney General. Two other candidates were tested, but neither could surpass 5% support. This first public data release suggests what most political observers have been saying: that the primary race will be close and hard fought. The eventual Republican nominee will become a prohibitive favorite to succeed Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) in the November election. Mr. Daugaard is ineligible to seek a third term.


February 9, 2018
Key Election Updates and Pennsylvania Redistricting Upheaval Continues 
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • Recent polling shows tight Florida Senate race between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott
  • Citing constitutional violations of articles relating to separation of powers, Pennsylvania majority state House Republicans may soon consider motion to impeach state Supreme Court Justices over redraw of state congressional districts 
  • Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D) currently leading in California Governors race 
  • Rep. Martha Roby (R) vs. former Rep. Bobby Bright (D) again, but now in Alabama GOP primary

Senate

Florida:  A trio of polls was released during the week, all showing a close contest between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R).  Florida Atlantic University (2/1-4; 750 FL registered voters; 375 on-line; 375 via automated telephone system) surprisingly finds Gov. Scott leading Sen. Nelson by ten percentage points, 44-34%, but this result seems unsubstantiated.  The University of North Florida's survey (1/29-2/4; 619 FL registered voters via live telephone interview) draws almost the opposite conclusion in finding Sen. Nelson ahead, 48-42%.  Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy (1/30-2/1; 625 FL registered voters) places the two in a virtual dead heat, 45-44% in Nelson's favor.  Gov. Scott has not yet announced his candidacy, but it is clear that he will enter the race.  This could become the nation's premier Senate race.

House

AL-2: One-term Democratic US Rep. Bobby Bright, also a former Mayor of Montgomery, announced yesterday that he will challenge the woman who unseated him eight years ago, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery).  This time, however, the two will do battle in the Republican primary.  Mr. Bright, who had been an Independent prior to becoming a Democratic congressional candidate in 2008, has now switched to the Republicans as he attempts to make a political comeback eight years since his defeat for re-election.  The state primary is June 5th.  If no candidate secures a majority vote, the top two finishers will run-off on July 17th.  The seat will remain Republican.

AZ-8:  OH Predictive Insights again went into the field in Arizona, this time testing the AZ-8 special election.  The poll (1/29; 400 AZ-8 likely Republican special primary election voters) finds the race largely developing into a two-way contest.  According to the results, state Senate President Pro Tempore Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria) and state Senator Steve Montenegro (R-Litchfield Park) are tied at 21% apiece.  Former state Rep. Phil Lovas places third with 12%, followed by former state Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump at 10 percent.  The special primary election is February 27th, with the related general vote scheduled for April 24th.  Republicans are heavy favorites to retain the seat.

HI-1:  Several weeks ago, Attorney General Doug Chin announced that he would enter the open 1st District Democratic primary and that he would resign his appointed position in March.  Now, he accepts the Lt. Governor's appointment since incumbent Shan Tsutsui (D) resigned to take a position in the private sector.  But, Mr. Chin will only serve on an interim basis and continue in his campaign for Congress.  Gov. David Ige (D) first offered the Lt. Governor's office to both state Senate President Ron Kouchi (D), and then state House Speaker Scott Saiki (D) but each declined to accept. 
 
MN-1:  Though Minnesota is not technically a convention state, most candidates abide by the pre-primary delegate endorsement process.  State Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) said yesterday, however, that she will take the campaign to a primary regardless of the convention outcome.  The action suggests she believes the party regulars will back 2016 nominee Jim Hagedorn, who scored 49.7% of the vote against Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato).  The state conventions will occur in June.  Any succeeding primary campaign will be decided on August 14th.
 
NE-2:  Democrat Brad Ashford was elected to the US House in 2014, but Republican Don Bacon (R-Papillion) ousted him two years later.  This year, Mr. Ashford is attempting his own political comeback.  But, him winning the Democratic nomination may be more difficult than first thought.  Non-profit executive Kara Eastman is showing some political strength.  This week she received endorsements from Omaha City Council President Ben Gray and Douglas County Democratic County chair Crystal Rhodes, who is also a Nebraska Public Service Commissioner.  The Nebraska primary is May 15th, and this one may be one to watch.
 
NJ-11:  Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Parsippany) announced his congressional candidacy this week, in the seat from which House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) is retiring.  Mr. Webber is quickly rounding up key party endorsements and support to the point that state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) was forced to the political sidelines.  Now, it remains unclear as to whether state Assemblyman Tony Bucco (R-Randolph) will enter the race.  Late this week, rumors were beginning to swirl that former New York Jets' Center Nick Mangold was about to become an 11th District candidate, but then he quickly announced that he would not run.  Democrats feature two candidates who have done well on the fundraising circuit: attorney Mikie Sherrill and businesswoman Tamara Harris. 
 
NY-19:  Television actress Diane Neal, best known for her recurring appearances on the "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" program, announced that she will challenge freshman Rep. John Faso (R-Kinderhook) this year, but not as a Democrat.  With six Democrats already in the race for the party nomination, Ms. Neal says she will run as an Independent, and could certainly compete for one of the many party ballot lines that New York features.  The move could actually help Rep. Faso.  Ms. Neal comes from the left of the ideological spectrum; therefore, a potential three-way race would likely split some of the liberal/libertarian/anti-Faso vote, which could allow him to win re-election with only a plurality.

NC-10: Chief Deputy Majority Whip Patrick McHenry (R-Lake Norman) is no stranger to repelling Republican primary challenges.  He has defended himself in three consecutive primaries and will do so again this May.  Anti-Trump activist Gina Collias announced her candidacy this week, joining two other Republicans as intra-party challengers to the veteran Congressman.  With a total of three Republicans on the ballot, Rep. McHenry should have an easy run for re-nomination.  Under North Carolina election law, a candidate is nominated once he or she reaches just 40% of the vote in the first nomination election.  The Tar Heel State primary is May 8th.  If a run-off becomes necessary, it will occur on July 18th.

Pennsylvania: With Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf pledging to veto whatever the legislature presents to comply with the state Supreme Court striking down the PA congressional map as a political gerrymander, while the Justices already appointed a special master from Stanford University to draw the map, it appears the judiciary is successfully usurping the legislature's redistricting role.
 
Considering the state Supreme Court's action, majority state House Republicans may soon be considering a motion to impeach some of the Justices. Sponsoring state Rep. Cris Dush (R-Punxsutawney) says the court's redistricting ruling violates specific state constitutional articles relating to separation of powers among the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of the Pennsylvania state government.  Since impeachment only requires a majority vote in the House to move to a Senate trial, this move appears more than symbolic.
 
TN-1:  While nine standing committee chairmen are not seeking re-election to the House this year, one who will is Tennessee Rep. Phil Roe (R-Johnson City), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.  Mr. Roe had been on retirement watch because he originally promised to limit himself to ten years in office, which will occur at the end of the present term.  Yesterday, the veteran lawmaker confirmed, however, that he will seek a sixth term and is in strong political position.  His biggest threat would likely come from another Republican, similar to how he unseated then-Rep. David Davis back in the 2008 GOP primary.  At this point only retired Army Sergeant and Iraq War veteran Todd McKinley is an announced primary challenger.  The candidate filing deadline is April 5th for the August 2nd state primary.
 
TX-2:  Businesswoman and conservative activist Kathaleen Wall continues to make strides in her quest to succeed retiring Rep. Ted Poe (R-Atascocita/Humble) in the Houston suburbs.  This week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) announced his endorsement of Ms. Wall's campaign, following Gov. Greg Abbott (R) doing so in late January.  The first-in-the-nation Texas primary is March 6th.  If no candidate receives majority support, the top two finishers advance to a May 22nd run-off election.  The eventual Republican nominee becomes a prohibitive favorite in the general election.
 
VA-10:  The Virginia Democratic Party is not short on candidates to challenge two-term Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean), but they now have one fewer.  Former Fairfax County educator and teachers' union leader Kimberly Adams announced that she is ending her campaign.  The Adams decision reduces the Democratic primary field to ten candidates.  Whether others start to follow Ms. Adams' lead because the number of competitors makes it difficult to gain significant political oxygen remains to be seen.  Hillary Clinton carrying this district by almost ten percentage points suggests that this race will become a toss-up campaign once the Democrats settle on a nominee.

Governor

California:  The Policy Analysis for California Education organization hired two pollsters, Tulchin Research, a Democratic firm, and Moore Information, a Republican counterpart, to conduct their latest issue and political poll.  Together, the firms surveyed the California electorate (1/21-28; 2,500 CA registered voters) with an extensive online poll that included a ballot test question about the upcoming open Governor's campaign.  According to the results, which were consistent with previous polling, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) leads the field of candidates with 29% of the jungle primary vote.  In second place is former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D) who secured 11% and is closely followed by Republican businessman John Cox at 10%. 

The Public Policy Institute of California also ran an extensive statewide poll (1/21-30; 1,705 CA adult residents; 1,194 via cell phone, 511 on land lines), and presents a much different picture.  For the jungle primary, the PPIC finds Lt. Gov. Newsom holding only a 23-21% lead over former Mayor Villaraigosa, with state Treasurer John Chiang in third place with 9% and Republican Assemblyman Trent Allen polling 8 percent.  In California, the top two finishers in the primary election, regardless of political party affiliation, advance to the general election.
 
Florida:  Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy released a new Florida Governor's survey (1/29-2/1; 500 FL Democratic primary voters; 500 FL Republican primary voters) to determine how the two partisan primary campaigns are currently unfolding.  Though the filing deadline is May 4, the candidate fields seem to be relatively set for both parties.  The Florida primary is not until August 28th.
 
According to the M-D data, a tight early race is forecast for both Democrats and Republicans, as will be the case for the general election.  For the Dems, former US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee), the daughter of ex-Governor and US Senator Bob Graham (D), leads Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, 20-17%.  Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum breaks into double-digits at 10%, and businessman Chris King lags behind with 4% support.  On the GOP side, Agriculture Commissioner and former US Rep. Adam Putnam remains in first place, leading Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) by a 27-23% margin, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O' Lakes/Pasco County) trailing at 7 percent.  Gov. Rick Scott (R), a likely US Senate candidate, is ineligible to seek a third term.
 
Iowa:  Selzer & Company, Iowa's most prominent political pollster, released the results of their first survey of the upcoming gubernatorial contest featuring new Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).  According to the poll (1/28-31; 801 Iowa adults; 555 likely voters), Gov. Reynolds leads all of her announced opponents, but by small, or relatively small, margins.  Against state Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines), Ms. Reynolds edge is 41-37%.  Her lead expands to 42-37% over wealthy businessman Fred Hubbell who has already been running television ads.  Against former Obama Administration official John Norris, the margin grows to 41-30%, and 42-30% over former Iowa Democratic Party chairman Andy McGuire.  Gov. Reynolds performs best against local union president Cathy Glasson (44-31%). 
 
Minnesota:  Former state House Speaker Paul Thissen announced yesterday that he is dropping his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  The move means five candidates are left in the field, led by US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), state Auditor Rebecca Otto, and former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.  Local Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the 2014 Republican nominee, appears to be the GOP early leader, but that could quickly change if former Gov. Tim Pawlenty decides to enter this race.   As previously reported, Mr. Pawlenty is holding meetings to assess his chances in a new statewide race.  The former Governor and short-term presidential candidate served as Minnesota's chief executive from 2003-2011. 


February 2, 2018
House Retirements Continue...
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Alabama: Following Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan's lead from earlier this month, state Auditor Jim Ziegler (R) announced that he, too, would end his gubernatorial campaign. Mr. McMillan made public statements as early as last May that he would run for Governor, but reversed course in early January only to re-surface in the state Treasurer's race. Mr. Ziegler's future plans are not clear, but the Governor's campaign is coming down to a battle against an interim incumbent who is demonstrating political prowess.

The Ziegler decision is a boon to new Gov. Kay Ivey (R), but she is not yet home free for the Republican nomination. Still in the race is Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile). The Democrats are fielding Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. The state primary is June 5th, with a run-off scheduled for July 17th if no candidate receives an absolute majority in their respective party nomination elections.

New Jersey: After seeing a hung jury result in Sen. Bob Menendez's (D) bribery trial, the US Justice Department originally announced that they would push forward with further court proceedings but have now reversed course. The new judge dismissing 40% of the pending charges apparently gutted the government's case on the remaining indictments. In the meantime, wealthy Republican pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin continues to move closer toward entering the race giving the GOP what appears to be a viable candidacy. Whether the Menendez legal situation now turning in his favor changes Mr. Hugin's desire to run remains to be seen.

Tennessee: The Tennessee Star online publication conducted a Triton Research poll for the impending Volunteer State US Senate campaign (1/21-24; 1,003 TN likely general election voters) and found Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) jumping out to a lead beyond the margin of polling error when paired with former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D). The results found Ms. Blackburn holding a strong 50-39% advantage, but the partisan division within the sampling universe skews Republican. When former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) was paired with Mr. Bredesen, it was the Democrat who led 41-38%. Considering the polling skew, the former Governor's edge over Mr. Fincher is likely several points greater.

Utah: Former presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) has scheduled an announcement in Salt Lake City for February 15th. It is highly likely that he will be declaring his candidacy for retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R) seat. Mr. Romney will immediately become the prohibitive favorite to capture the seat, and it's unlikely he will draw major opposition.

House

AL-5:  With Alabama's candidate filing deadline fast approaching on February 9th, state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison), who months ago declared a challenge to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), announced at the end of last week that he will discontinue his primary challenge campaign. This leaves businessman Clayton Hinchman as the only Republican candidate organizing to challenge the four-term Congressman. Mr. Hinchman has proven himself the better challenger candidate, but he, too, is a major underdog to the current incumbent.

FL-5: Freshman Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) has drawn a Democratic primary challenge, ironically a day after the incumbent Lawson himself unseated two years ago, former Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville), reported to prison to begin her sentence for public corruption. Now, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown made public his intention to challenge Mr. Lawson for re-nomination. The race will again pit the district's anchor population centers and political bases, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, against each other. The Florida primary is not until August 28th, so this budding primary campaign will consume many months.

IL-4:   The Garin-Hart-Yang Research firm released results of their latest poll in this Democratic primary campaign (1/18-21; 400 IL-4 likely Democratic primary voters) and finds Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia leading Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno and non-profit executive Sol Flores, 59-8-6%, respectively. After the release, Mr. Moreno decided to end his campaign, virtually conceding the primary nomination to Mr. Garcia. Since, IL-4 is a safely Democratic seat, it appears that he is the Congressman-in-waiting.

MA-3:  With already a dozen Democrats vying to replace retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell), the field shrunk by a candidate this week. Former Cambridge City Councilman Nadeem Mazen (D) decided to end his congressional campaign. His move entering this particular race never made much sense. Mr. Mazen is from a city that is nowhere near the 3rd District, forcing him to compete with more than ten others who at least live in the central population area. The Massachusetts primary is not scheduled until September 4th, so this nomination campaign is merely beginning.

MA-7:  Boston at-large City Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley, the first woman of color to win election to the municipal panel, announced a Democratic primary challenge to 10-term veteran Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Somerville). Ms. Pressley was first elected in 2009 and won re-election in 2013 with more votes than anyone else on the ballot for the city position. The 7th District encompasses a large portion of Boston city, with parts of Cambridge, the towns of Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea, and then stretches beyond South Boston to the town of Randolph. The stage is set for an interesting primary.

NJ-11: House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Morristown) announced this week that he would not seek re-election to a 13th term in the House, thus bringing his 24 year congressional career to an end once the current Congress adjourns. The Congressman's father, Peter Frelinghuysen, served for 18 years in the House and represented a similar northern New Jersey constituency.

New Jersey's 11th District was designed to be a safely Republican district, but the electorate has been changing over the last few elections. President Trump carried the 11th by only one percentage point (49-48%), but lost the state, 41-55%. Four years earlier, Mitt Romney won the seat by a close but more substantial, 52-47%. In the battle to originally challenge Rep. Frelinghuysen, two Democrats have already obtained major funding. Mikie Sherrill, former federal prosecutor, amassed more than $820,000 in her campaign account through September, while businesswoman Tamara Harris had just under $450,000 in spendable funds. But, the two will have to spend a substantial amount of their political capital to win the June Democratic primary. GOP Assemblyman and former New Jersey Republican Party Chairman Jay Webber is moving toward running, among others, so we can expect a hotly contested general election from this region that normally supports the GOP candidate.

Pennsylvania: The state Supreme Court this week struck down the Pennsylvania congressional lines as a political gerrymander under the Pennsylvania Constitution by a 4-3 vote. They have ordered the map re-drawn and enacted by February 15th. But, state Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Brockway/Wellsboro) says the body will not comply with the order to provide the court with requested data information because the Justices did not state the specific constitutional violations that invalidated the map. US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who has jurisdiction to review petitions from Pennsylvania and several other Mid-Atlantic states, has not rejected a Republican motion to ask the high court to intervene. Therefore, things will get very interesting here in a short amount of time. The contentious issue is highly important to both parties.

PA-1: Veteran US Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) announced his retirement this week, becoming the 16th House Democrat to do so. The Congressman has been facing a legal situation from actions involving allegedly paying a previous Brady opponent to exit the race. Several of the Congressman's campaign staff members have already accepted plea bargain agreements. Democrats will keep the 1st District, but the uncertain redistricting situation could change this seat now that there is no incumbent running.

SC-4: On the same day as Pennsylvania Rep. Bob Brady (D-Philadelphia) announced his retirement, four-term South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-Spartanburg) also did so. Mr. Gowdy becomes the 53rd House member to not seek re-election, and the 37th Republican. He is also now the ninth standing committee chairman to publicly declare he will not be returning to the House. Mr. Gowdy is in his first term as Government Reform & Oversight committee chairman. Republicans will keep the northwestern South Carolina district, but we are sure to see a run-off campaign result from what will surely be a crowded Republican primary field.

UT-4: A new Dan Jones & Associates survey (1/15-22; 400 UT-4 registered voters) provides more evidence that Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs) has a re-election fight on her hands. According to the Jones' organization, Rep. Love would hold only a 47-42% advantage over Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams (D). A similar poll taken three months ago, also from DJ & A, found an almost identical 48-42% split.

Governor

Colorado: Hampered by poor fundraising receipts, former US Representative, gubernatorial, and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (R) announced this week that he is ending his 2018 open seat campaign for the Centennial State's top political position. Mr. Tancredo was also faring poorly in hypothetical general election pairings with Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), commonly viewed as the Democratic front-runner. Remaining in the GOP race are Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and state Treasurer Walker Stephenson, among many others. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Ohio: A new Buckeye State survey just produced some surprising results. According to Fallon Research, polling for Ohio's 1984 Society, Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine (R) would open the general election with a huge lead over former Consumer Protection Financial Bureau director and ex-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray (D). Fallon projects, in a survey that looks to have a reasonable reliability factor, that DeWine holds a whopping 49-28% advantage over Cordray, a highly unexpected margin at this early juncture in the campaign cycle.

But, Public Policy Polling (1/22-23; 585 OH registered voters), conducting a survey for the Ohio Democratic Party, finds DeWine's lead not 19, but a scant one-percentage point, 45-44%.   DeWine's lead expands to 48-37% in this poll if his general election opponent were former US Representative and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich (D).

Minnesota: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) earlier declined to enter the special US Senate race later this year, but apparently he could still be on the ballot. Looking at the rather weak field of Republican candidates lining up for the open Governor's race, Mr. Pawlenty has called a February 12th meeting of his key political supporters. The discussion topic is apparently about the former Governor launching a return campaign this year. If he were to enter the race, Mr. Pawlenty would immediately become the Republican front-runner. The general election would be highly competitive, but the ex-Governor carried the state twice. Democrats are fielding six candidates who are currently battling for the party nomination.

Tennessee: The aforementioned Tennessee Star poll (see Tennessee Senate above) also tested the open gubernatorial race. In this polling exercise, former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean was the only Democrat tested against the Republican field. Again understanding that a slight Republican skew exists within this particular respondent group, Mr. Dean loses to every GOP candidate who is still actively running.

Against US Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin), Mr. Dean trails, 46-35%. If state House Speaker Beth Harwell were the Republican nominee, the GOP margin would be 42-32%. The spread is 43-34% against entrepreneur Randy Boyd, while state Higher Education Commissioner Bill Lee outpaces Mr. Dean by only four points, 38-34%. Former state Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Juliet) was included in the poll but has since announced that she is suspending further efforts for the party nomination. In her pairing, she and Mr. Dean were tied with 36% apiece.


January 26, 2018
Pennsylvania Redistricting and House Candidates Emerging 
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Indiana:  US Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) released the results of his early January GS Strategy Group poll, the second such survey conducted for his campaign.  According to the study (1/6-9; 500 IN likely GOP primary voters), Mr. Rokita has expanded his advantage over fellow Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) while former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper) also gained support.  According to the results, the western state Congressman leads his opponents, 24-9-9%.  The Indiana primary is May 8th.  The winner faces first-term Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in the November election.

New Jersey:  After seeing a hung jury result in Sen. Bob Menendez's (D) bribery trial, the US Justice Department announced that they will still push forward with further court proceedings.  The timing of this latest legal battle is unclear, but it would almost assuredly not come before the Democratic primary on June 5th.  It could, however, be scheduled before the general election, and in the middle of prime campaign time.  Speculation is building that the Senator might be forced to resign, but that seems much less likely since he's already come close to beating the charges and the new judge already rejected several more indictments.  In the meantime, wealthy Republican pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin is moving closer toward entering the race, giving the GOP what appears to be a viable candidacy.   

Ohio: Last year, rumors persisted that best-selling author J.D. Vance (R) was going to enter the Republican Senate primary.  With state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) and investment banker Michael Gibbons (R) already in the race, Mr. Vance decided not to become a candidate.  When Mr. Mandel changed his plans due to his wife's recently discovered health issue, the Vance drumbeat again began to roll.  Now, with Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) hopping into the Senate race from the Governor's campaign, Mr. Vance has again decided to bypass a 2018 political run.  The winner of the now-presumed primary between Rep. Renacci and Mr. Gibbons faces two-term Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in the general election.

Utah:  Reports from the Beehive State indicate that former Republican presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will announce his US Senate candidacy next week.  Mr. Romney will be entering the race to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R).  Interestingly, it is believed that the presumed Senatorial candidate will bypass the Republican nominating convention and petition his way onto the primary ballot.  With no major Republican expected to challenge Mr. Romney, this open seat race will likely be clinched the day he officially becomes a candidate.

House

CA-39: Remington Research conducted the first public poll in this Orange/Los Angeles County congressional district since veteran Rep. Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton) announced his retirement.  According to RR (1/10-11; 761 CA-39 likely voters), former state Assemblywoman Young Kim (R), who Mr. Royce has already endorsed, would lead a pair of Democrats in prospective general election pairings.  Against lottery winner Gil Cisneros, Ms. Kim would lead 41-38%.  Paired with physician Mai Khanh Tran, the Republican advantage would be a more substantial 42-33%.  This campaign is expected to be highly competitive and will rank high on the national Democratic conversion target list.

CA-49:  San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar (R-Encinitas) this week entered the open 49th district seat from which Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is retiring.  Ms. Gaspar's 3rd supervisorial district captures all of the San Diego County coastal regions consistent with the 49th CD.  Prior to her election to county office, she served as mayor and councilmember in the city of Encinitas.  The open seat contest has attracted five Republicans and four Democrats, including 2016 democratic general election participant Doug Applegate who attracted 49.7% of the vote against Mr. Issa.  The race is rated a toss-up.

FL-27:  Former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala is the latest Democrat reportedly considering entering the crowded primary battle to succeed retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Miami).  After leaving the Clinton Administration, Ms. Shalala became president of the University of Miami, a position from which she retired in 2015.  Already eight Democrats are vying for the party nomination, including two state legislators and a pair of local South Florida officials. 

MI-13:  Investment advisor John Conyers III, son of resigned Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to establish a campaign committee for the special election to replace his father.  The special schedule will run concurrently with the regular election calendar.  The younger Conyers named his new congressional committee, "Conyers to Conyers."  Also in the field of candidates is his cousin, state Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit).  The Democrats will hold the seat in November, but whether or not a Conyers carries the day still remains to be decided.

NV-4: Nevada's 4th Congressional District was created in 2011 after the 2010 census awarded the state a new district in reapportionment because of massive population growth.  Since that time, the electorate has yet to re-elect an incumbent Congressman.  With freshman incumbent Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) being forced into retirement because of sexual harassment accusations, the seat will be open in 2018, and two defeated incumbents are attempting political comebacks.  As reported here last week, former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite) announced his candidacy.  This week, ex-Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) declared that he, too, will again become a congressional candidate.  The former Congressman still faces serious Democratic primary opposition in the person of state Sen. Pat Spearman, who says she will not yield to Horsford.  Assuming Horsford wins the Democratic nomination, the general election will feature a re-match of the 2014 campaign.  This pairing would obviously result in one of the two returning to Washington.

NY-24:  Former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner (D), who was clearly the Democrats' top recruitment prospect to challenge Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse), declared late this week that she will not become a congressional candidate.  Though the 24th district is politically marginal, Mr. Katko has performed very well, starting with a 59% defeat of incumbent Rep. Dan Maffei (D) in 2014.  Rep. Katko was re-elected in 2016 with 58% despite being a top Democratic target and Hillary Clinton winning the CD with a four-point margin.

Pennsylvania:  The state Supreme Court this week struck down the Pennsylvania congressional lines as a political gerrymander under the Pennsylvania Constitution by a 4-3 vote.  They have ordered the map re-drawn and enacted by February 15th.  The Republican legislature is now tasked with re-crafting the congressional delegation map, which will be subject to Gov. Tom Wolf's (D) veto.  Therefore, it is a certainty that the map will undergo major changes that will favor the Democrats.  The current delegation split is 13R-5D.  The four open seats currently represented by Reps. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford), Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona), Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton), and Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) give the GOP map-drawers a major opportunity to concede seats using the territory within these districts and surrounding regions as the basis for the mandated changes in order to mitigate the party's losses.

PA-7:  In the middle of a public sexual harassment controversy and staring at a likely adverse redistricting situation, Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Chadds Ford) announced late this week that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term.   Mr. Meehan's decision now brings the House open seat count to an even 50, of which 35 are Republican-held.  The Philadelphia suburban seat has performed as a marginal political district though Mr. Meehan held it easily, averaging 58.9% in his four election victories.  It's craggily shape made it a natural for the redistricting argument, and this seat will come front and center in the subsequent re-draw action the state Supreme Court ordered earlier this week.  It is likely a new 7th District will lean Democratic.

PA-8:  Attorney Scott Wallace (D), whose grandfather was Vice President Henry Wallace, filed candidate papers with the Federal Election Commission to enter the 8th District Democratic congressional primary.  If he proceeds with his candidacy, Mr. Wallace will face attorney Rachel Reddick and non-profit organization executive Steve Bechler.  The eventual nominee then challenges Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Levittown) in a race that has strong competitive potential. Henry Wallace was Vice President during the war years of 1941-45, and served under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  He was dumped from the 1944 Democratic ticket at the national convention in favor of Missouri Sen. Harry Truman, who would obviously go on to become President. 

PA-18:  A new DFM Research Democratic poll conducted for the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation union (1/18-19; 384 PA-18 registered voters) finds Republican State Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Canonsburg) leading Democratic attorney Conor Lamb by only a three-point margin, 41-38%.  The poll appears correctly geographically dispersed within the four-county congressional district, but the partisan ratio is unreported.  The close margin is inconsistent with other recent internal Republican polls, which show Mr. Saccone holding leads of nine and ten points.  The special election to replace resigned Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) is March 13th.

Governor

Alaska:  Former state Senate President Charlie Huggins (R) announced that he is ending his gubernatorial campaign mainly due to poor fundraising.  The decision leaves former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, state Rep. and former House Speaker Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), and businessman and Anchorage Economic Development Corporation founder Scott Hawkins as the three major Republican candidates. 

The question remains whether former US Sen. Mark Begich (D) will enter the race, but so far he continues to keep quiet about potentially launching a gubernatorial campaign.  Assuming Mr. Begich does not run, then Gov. Bill Walker, the nation's only Independent state chief executive, will again likely become the de facto Democratic nominee and be favored for re-election.  If Begich decides to run, a free-for-all campaign could result.

Iowa:  For a state with just four congressional districts, the Iowa Governor's race is attracting major financial resources according to the latest state financial disclosure report.  Incumbent Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has so far raised $3.7 million and carries $4.1 million cash-on-hand.  Her Republican primary opponent, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett showed income of $844,000 with cash reserves of $579,000.

Big money is flowing on the Democratic side, both in terms of fundraising and candidate contributions with three candidates already exceeding the $1 million mark for the June primary.  Businessman Fred Hubbell raised $2.9 million and has $1.2 million in the bank.  Service Employees International Union official Cathy Glasson also cracked the $1 million barrier, bringing in $1.3 million, and now has $729,000 in her campaign account.  State Sen. Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines) also broke into seven figures, raising $1.1 million with $481,000 remaining.


January 19, 2018
House Candidates Dropping Out and Senate Races Heating Up
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Arizona:As expected, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) announced her candidacy for the state's open Senate seat at the end of last week. Ms. McSally will now challenge former Sheriff of Maricopa County Joe Arpaio and ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward in the August 28th Republican primary. The winner will likely face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in the general election. Ms. Sinema is fast becoming the consensus Democratic candidate.

A new poll from the Arizona-based Data Orbital survey research firm (1/11-15; 500 AZ likely Republican primary voters) finds Rep. McSally leading Mr. Arpaio and Ms. Ward for the open Republican Senate primary. According to these latest numbers, Rep. McSally holds a 31-22-19% lead over Mr. Arpaio and Ms. Ward, respectively. The analysis suggests that McSally's strong base within her Tucson congressional district is largely responsible for her statewide advantage. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is retiring after one term.

Minnesota:While former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) never expressed outright interest in running in the new special election presumably against appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D), he never firmly closed the door on entering the race, either. Now, he has. This week, in a Fox News interview, Mr. Pawlenty said he will not become a Senate candidate, and that there are many other ways to continue his public service career. On the heels of Mr. Pawlenty firmly deciding not to run against Sen. Smith, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano/Minneapolis suburbs) then quickly followed suit. Yesterday, Mr. Emmer announced that he will seek re-election to a third term from his 6th District US House seat. For now, state Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater/St. Croix River Valley) is the only announced candidate. Former US Rep. and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is also considering the race.

Mississippi:Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D-Tupelo), a cousin of rock legend Elvis Presley, had been the national Democrats' top choice to oppose Sen. Roger Wicker (R) this year. But, they will now have to look elsewhere. Yesterday, Mr. Presley announced that he will not become a Senate candidate, at least in the regular cycle. Rumors have been rampant that health issues may force Sen. Thad Cochran (R) to resign and, if so, an appointment would be made followed by a special election to be held concurrently with the regular cycle. Mr. Presley pointedly did not rule out entering a special election, if and when such a political apparatus becomes necessary.

On the Republican side, still no word as to whether state Sen. Chris McDaniel will challenge Mr. Wicker in the GOP primary. As time progresses without indication of movement, the chances are much less that Mr. McDaniel will enter the race. In 2014, you will remember that Sen. Cochran came within a half-percentage point of losing the Republican nomination to Sen. McDaniel. The candidate filing deadline is March 1st for the June 5th primary.

Missouri:Last week, Remington Research released a survey giving Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) a 49-45% lead over Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), the second time this polling firm reported such a finding. Public Policy Polling, then surveying for the liberal Majority Institute (1/8-9; 965 MO registered voters), puts McCaskill back in the lead, but with only the slightest of margins, 45-44%. This latter sampling universe appears to contain a Democratic skew, however. In a state that has lurched to the right since the turn of the century, the PPP sample actually gave the Democrats a 37-34% plurality. Together, the two polls suggest that the Senate race is clearly within the margin of polling error and should be considered a toss-up, even at this early stage of the election cycle.

Tennessee:The first public polling for the open Volunteer State Republican Senate nomination (Triton Polling & Research; 12/12-18; 1,028 TN likely Republican primary voters) released back in December staked Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) to a huge 58-11% advantage over former US Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County). Now, WPA Intelligence, polling for the Club for Growth, released the results of their latest survey (1/14-15; 502 TN likely Republican primary voters) and found Rep. Blackburn's lead to be even greater: 66-13%. In fact, even when tested against two-term retiring incumbent Sen. Bob Corker (R), the Congresswoman would deny him re-nomination in a hypothetical primary race, 63-25%. Her favorability image within this polling sample is a whopping 64:12% positive to negative.

Wyoming:Though we have heard little follow-up about potential primary challenges to Sen. John Barrasso (R), Blackwater security company founder Erik Prince is again on record saying he is still considering whether to enter the race, and promises a decision in February. Nothing more has been heard from mutual fund founder and major GOP donor Foster Friess, who also made statements about possibly opposing the Senator. Both men could easily finance their own campaigns. The candidate filing deadline is not until June 1st for the August 21st state primary. But, like in Mississippi, the more time that passes without challengers coming forward continues to favor the sitting incumbent.

House

IL-3:Marketing consultant Marie Newman is challenging veteran Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/Chicago suburbs) and consolidating support on the left. In addition to attracting several left-of-center groups' support, Newman has now earned endorsements from two sitting members of the Illinois congressional delegation. In a bit of a surprise, Chicago Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky both endorsed Ms. Newman against their area colleague, though the former is not seeking re-election. The moves signal that this Democratic primary challenge will likely become a serious electoral contest. The Illinois primary is March 20th.

IL-17:Despite already raising more than $500,000 as a challenger opposing three-term western Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), businessman Mark Kleine (R) has decided to end his congressional campaign. He made comments suggesting that he could not raise the type of money it would take to win the race, even though he began in strong fashion. At best, the race would have been a long shot.

Though Mr. Kleine was demonstrating some strength as a candidate, the party leaders have no chance of recruiting a strong replacement since the filing deadline has already passed. Illinois has the second-earliest primary in the country (March 20). For her part, Rep. Bustos had already raised well over $1.5 million in this currently election cycle, and held over $2.3 million in her campaign account at the end of September.

NV-4:Reports coming from Nevada indicate that Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony (R) is ending his campaign for the open 4th Congressional District seat (freshman Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas)) because of heart problems. Now that Mr. Kihuen is out of the race, former Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-Mesquite), despite suffering his own heart attack during his one term in the House, has re-entered the race. Rep. Kihuen unseated Mr. Hardy in 2016, but came under fire for sexual harassment and will not seek re-election. The 4th CD is a marginal political seat, originally created in the 2011 reapportionment, which leans toward the Democrats but has also proven to vote Republican.

OH-12:Now that Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) has officially left the House and the replacement primary election is scheduled concurrently with the state's regular primary on May 8th, more individuals are making political moves. This week, Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan became the sixth Republican to declare her candidacy, while Democratic former state Rep. Jay Goyal said he will not run despite being encouraged to do so by many Democratic Party leadership figures.

So far, six Republicans and seven Democrats have entered the special election campaign. The candidate filing deadline is February 7th. The leading Republicans are state Sens. Kevin Bacon (R-Columbus) and Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), along with Delaware County prosecutor Carol O'Brien. For the Dems, former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott and ex-Ashley Mayor Doug Wilson appear to top the field. The special general is August 7th. Republicans are favored to hold the seat.

VA-6:Through Virginia's unique candidate nominating rules, each congressional district party committee can decide upon the vehicle and date to choose their candidates. The open 6th District (Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Roanoke) retiring) will go to a Republican convention on May 19th. Candidate filing closed yesterday, and eight individuals filed as congressional contenders. Three appear to be the key players: state Del. Ben Cline (R-Lexington), RNC National Committeewoman and former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, and Rockingham-Harrisonburg Clerk of Court Chaz Haywood. 

The 6th District Republican Committee is organizing a bit differently for this convention. Instead of the usual process where the delegates vote until a candidate has majority support, these delegates will simply vote one time. This means the contender with mere plurality support will be nominated. At least one of the candidates, Delegate Cline, is objecting to the new procedure but there is little he can do to influence changes.

Governor

Connecticut:Liberal activist Ned Lamont, who upset Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) in the 2006 Democratic primary but fell to him in the general when the Senator attained ballot access as an Independent, announced that he will become the eighth Democrat to compete in this year's open Governor's race. Mr. Lamont lost the 2010 gubernatorial primary to Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy, the man who would go onto win the general election, garnering only 42% of the vote. The perennial candidate, a former Greenwich Selectman, is from the Sanders-Warren wing of the Democratic Party, and actually stands a good chance of topping a crowded primary field where no other candidate has significant statewide name identification.


January 12, 2018
California Retirements
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Arizona:  Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (R), who was defeated for re-election in 2016, announced he is entering the open Senate Republican primary.  If he were to be elected at 85 years of age, he would become the oldest freshman Senator in American history.  Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) has scheduled a series of appearances around the state for today that Arizona politicos report will become her Senate announcement tour.  Rep. McSally and Sheriff Arpaio will join former state Sen. Kelli Ward in the Republican primary.  The winner will likely face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in the general election.  Ms. Sinema is becoming the consensus Democratic candidate.  Sen. Jeff Flake (R) is not seeking a second term.  The Arizona primary is not until August 28th, with candidate filing closing May 30th.

The OH Predictive Insights polling firm conducted a flash interactive voice response poll for Arizona ABC affiliate Channel 15.  The survey (1/9; 504 AZ likely Republican primary voters) finds Rep. McSally moving into first place with 31% followed closely by Sheriff Arpaio who captures 29%.  Former state Sen. Kelli Ward drops to 25% support.

Missouri:  Remington Research again tested the tight Missouri Senate race with their latest survey (1/3-4; 1,122 MO likely voters), and once more found the challenger leading Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.   Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) continues to maintain a small advantage against the sitting two-term incumbent.  On this ballot test, Mr. Hawley holds a 49-45% edge over Ms. McCaskill.  The Missouri race has clearly moved into position as the Republicans' best national conversion opportunity.

Ohio:  State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who appeared to have the inside track toward facing Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in what would be a re-match of their 2012 campaign (Brown: 51-45%), has reversed course.  Mr. Mandel announced that he will not be filing as a Senate candidate, saying his wife has been recently diagnosed with a "health situation."  Investment banker Michael Gibbons has been in the race and was expected to battle Mandel for the nomination.  He will remain a candidate.  Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) announced late this week that he is switching from the gubernatorial race to the Senate campaign with the hope of now challenging two-term incumbent Brown. 

House

CA-39:Veteran California Congressman Ed Royce (R-Yorba Linda/Fullerton), who was first elected in 1992 after spending ten years in the California Senate, declared his intention to retire yesterday despite holding $3.5 million in his campaign account.  Up until now, it appeared Mr. Royce was preparing for what was promising to be a highly competitive campaign in a district that is moving leftward and undergoing drastic demographic changes. 

Rep. Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is the seventh committee chairman to announce his retirement.  Five of the seven are ending their allotted tenure on their respective policy panels.  Unlike most of the Republican open seats, this southern California district will provide the Democrats with a prime conversion opportunity.  Hillary Clinton carried the seat by a 51-43% spread.  Already six Democrats had announced their candidacies, and others are now expected to jump into the race now that the seat is open.  On the Republican side, Rep. Royce announced that he will be supporting former Assemblyman Young Kim as his replacement.  Earlier, Ms. Kim was a member of the Congressman's staff.  Former state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), Orange County Supervisor and former Fullerton Mayor Shawn Nelson, and La Mirada City Councilman Andrew Sarega also declared their candidacies.

CA-49: California Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) announced this week that he will not run for a tenth term later this year.  Mr. Issa becomes the 48th House member who will not return to the House for the succeeding Congress, although he would apparently consider running in adjacent District 50 should embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) be forced to resign.  Rep. Issa scored the closest re-election of any incumbent in 2016, winning the race with only a 50.3% margin.  Several Democrats have been running for months, including retired Marine Corps Col. Doug Applegate, the man who came close to upsetting Mr. Issa in the last election. 

We can continue to expect a highly competitive 2018 campaign in a San Diego/Orange County coastal district that typically votes Republican but switched to Hillary Clinton in the presidential race and came close to sending a Democrat to the House.  In addition to the three-person Democratic field that has already formed, Republican Board of Equalization member Diane Harkey, a former Orange County state legislator, and state Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) became Republican candidates.  Rep. Issa then quickly endorsed Ms. Harkey as his successor.

IL-4:  When Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced his retirement earlier in the year, he said it was only because Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia had agreed to run to succeed him.  With the blessing of the local Democratic machine, Commissioner Garcia obviously became the man to beat, but the early endorsements didn't stop Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa from joining the Democratic primary battle.  Yet, the Alderman's campaign proved short-lived.  Late this week, he dropped his congressional effort, thus making Mr. Garcia's nomination, and therefore election, a virtual certainty.  In fact, as part of his announcement, Mr. Ramirez-Rosa even endorsed Commissioner Garcia.  Four other Democrats remain in the race, including two other Chicago Aldermen, but Mr. Ramirez-Rosa appeared to be the most serious challenger. 

North Carolina:  A Tar Heel State federal judge again ruled the North Carolina congressional lines unconstitutional, though whether the map will again be re-drawn is unclear.  Should the US Supreme Court uphold the Wisconsin map in the political gerrymandering case that the Justices are currently reviewing, this North Carolina ruling will become moot. 

OH-12:  With Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) announcing that he will leave the House on January 15th, Gov. John Kasich (R) has set the replacement election schedule.  According to the public timeline, the special primary election will run concurrently with the regular primary schedule.  This means a nomination election on May 8th.  The special general will then follow on August 7th, with the winner serving the balance of the current term. 

State Sens. Kevin Bacon (R-Blendon Township) and Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), along with Delaware County prosecutor Carol O'Brien, appear to be the leading Republican candidates.  Former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott and ex-Ashley Mayor Doug Wilson are the top Democrats.  Others still have a month to enter the race.  The eventual GOP nominee will be favored to hold what was designed to be a safely Republican seat.  President Trump scored a 53-42% win over Hillary Clinton here in 2016.

Governor

California:  Former Congressman Doug Ose (R-Sacramento), who served three terms in the House before departing in 2004 because he self-term-limited, announced that he will become a gubernatorial candidate.  He is the first credible Republican to enter the open statewide campaign.  Though the Governor's race looks to be a suicide run for any Republican in heavily Democratic California, his chances of coalescing the GOP vote to send him into the general election from the jungle primary may be quite good.  Having a Republican on the ballot for the general election, thus avoiding a double-Democratic November campaign should help generate GOP turnout for the down ballot races.  This could be a significant plus for the targeted seven Republican House incumbents.

Florida:  Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Palm Coast/Daytona Beach) had long been considered a likely gubernatorial candidate and has now officially joined the race.  An outside PAC has already raised enough to put $2 million in an account to help elect the three-term Congressman to statewide office.  But, he starts out considerably behind the top Republican fundraiser, Agriculture Commissioner and former Congressman Adam Putnam (R-Lakeland).  The latest Florida financial disclosure reports find Mr. Putnam holding more than $15 million in a connected PAC.  But, a new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce (1/2-5; 600 FL likely and newly registered voters; 235 Democratic primary voters; 259 Republican primary voters), only slots him five points behind Mr. Putnam, 23-18%.  For the Democrats, ex-US Rep. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) places first, but with only 14% voter preference.

Maryland:  Gonzales Research & Media Services, a Maryland-based survey research firm, yesterday released the results of their year-end Democratic gubernatorial primary poll (12/27-1/5; 501 MD likely Democratic primary voters) and found Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker jumping out to an early advantage.  According to the Gonzales data, Mr. Baker would capture 24% support, followed by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and ex-NAACP national president Ben Jealous with 14% apiece, while state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) tallies five percent.  Four minor candidates all recorded support factors of less than two percent.  The eventual Democratic nominee will face incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in the fall election.

Ohio:  Just after former Congressman and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich joined the Democratic gubernatorial primary former Attorney General Richard Cordray and ex-US Rep. Betty Sutton have agreed to form a Democratic ticket.  Ms. Sutton will now drop her gubernatorial campaign and file for Lt. Governor.  The move prompted Dayton Mayor Nan Whatley to schedule an announcement for today in which she will also drop out of the Governor's race and endorse the new Cordray-Sutton ticket.  State Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Mahoning Valley), state Supreme Court judge Bill O'Neill, and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Cincinnati) remain in the race along with ex-Rep. Kucinich.

The Democrats' move is similar to one Republicans made in late November.  There, Secretary of State Jon Husted dropped his gubernatorial effort to run as Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine's running mate.  That move now isolates Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor as DeWine's only primary opponent, since Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) has bolted for the Senate race.

State Legislature

Virginia:  The Virginia House of Delegates' majority looks finally to be settled as the members were sworn into office this week.  After Republican Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News) won the lottery pick when he and Democrat Shelly Simonds ended in a tied result, his opponent decided to end the race by not asking for a further recount or filing further legal challenges.  Ms. Simonds did pledge to run again in the 2019 House of Delegates election.  This result, plus the Republicans receiving a favorable court ruling in another contested outcome, gives the GOP a 51-49 majority in the new House of Delegates and ends one of the closest political scenarios in American electoral history.


January 5, 2018
Sen. Hatch and Rep. Shuster to Retire and Va. Election Tie Decided in A Drawing of Names
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Michigan:  Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young (R), who launched his Senate challenge to incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) months ago, announced he is ending his campaign.  Unable to raise sufficient funds to compete in a large state, the former jurist will presumably retire from elective politics.  This likely leaves manufacturing business owner and retired Army Ranger John James and venture capital firm owner Sandy Pensler to battle for the party nomination.  The Michigan primary won't be held until August 7th.  Sen. Stabenow is favored to win a fourth term.

Minnesota:  Sen. Al Franken (D) officially left office on January 2nd, and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) was sworn in the next day as his replacement.  Sen. Smith has already announced that she will compete in the 2018 special election to fill the balance of the current term.  While former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is not yet closing the door on running for the Senate, US Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) is saying people are calling for him to run.  Mr. Emmer was the Republican gubernatorial nominee in 2010, losing to Democrat Mark Dayton by just under 9,000 votes statewide, or half a percentage point.  State Sen. Karin Housley (R-St. Mary's Point/Washington County) also says she will enter the special election contest.  Sen. Housley is the wife of Phil Housley, the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey club.

North Dakota:  State Rep. Rich Becker (R), who competed in the 2016 state Republican Convention for the Governor's nomination, said yesterday that he will not become a US Senate candidate.  Mr. Becker had been openly considering running for the party nomination to oppose first-term North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D).  At-large US Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck) still maintains he is contemplating a Senate bid, but the only person to actually come forward to declare his candidacy is state Sen. Tom Campbell (R-Grafton). 

Texas:  We now see the first released US Senate poll since the New Year began, and it contains good news for the Lone Star State's first-term Republican Senator, Ted Cruz.  According to WPA Intelligence, polling for the Cruz Campaign (12/12-14; 600 TX likely voters), the Senator would have a 52-34% opening advantage over US Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso).  The latter man appears to have become the consensus Democratic candidate; therefore, he should easily win the March 6th Democratic primary without a run-off.  Though Mr. O'Rourke is capable of running a strong campaign and will attract national liberal funding, Sen. Cruz begins this race as a heavy favorite to secure a second term.

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) finally ended speculation about his 2018 political plans and will not seek an eighth term during this campaign season, thus ending a Senate career that will span 42 years when this Congress adjourns.  On the heels of his retirement announcement, the Senator again made a public pronouncement that he favors Republican former presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to succeed him. 

Evan McMullin, the Independent presidential candidate who scored 21.5% of the vote in Utah and finished just six points behind Hillary Clinton for second place, was openly considering entering a Republican primary bid against Mr. Hatch.  With the Senator now officially retiring, Mr. McMullin was quoted late this week as saying he would also support former Gov. Romney, should the latter man decide to run for the Utah seat.  As has been the case for months, Mr. Romney remains silent about whether he would enter a new political contest.  If he declines to run, then expect Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Farmington/Salt Lake City) and possibly Rep. Mia Love (R-Saratoga Springs), along with several others, to enter the statewide campaign.

House

AL-2:  Rich Hobson, campaign manager to failed US Senate candidate Roy Moore (R), yesterday announced that he will enter the field to challenge four-term Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in this year's June Republican primary.  Already in the race are state Rep. Barry Moore and Iraq War veteran Tommy Amason.  Though Rep. Roby only won re-election in the 2016 general election by a 49-40% count, it does not now appear that any of the three Republican challengers will be strong enough to deny her re-nomination.

AZ-7:  In an unusual twist, a Democratic congressional incumbent is drawing a primary challenge from his right.  State Sen. Catherine Miranda announced yesterday that she will challenge two-term Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) for his heavily Democratic urban Maricopa County CD.  Sen. Miranda even went so far as to cross party lines to endorse Republican Doug Ducey in the 2014 open seat battle that he would subsequently win.  Rep. Gallego is favored for re-nomination in a district that is 64% Hispanic, but it will be interesting to monitor how well a credible Blue Dog can perform in a secure Democratic CD. 

MS-3:  Five-term Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Pearl/Jackson) announced late this week that he will not stand for re-election, becoming the 30th current Republican not to run for another term.  This is in addition to 15 Democrats who have taken the same course.  Less than half of the exiting group, 18 in all so far, are running for another office, either Senator or Governor with one already announcing for the 2020 presidential contest.  The remainder are voluntarily retiring or have already resigned typically because of sexual harassment allegations. The 3rd District, which occupies most of central Mississippi, has a safely Republican voting history.  Therefore, the eventual party nominee will be a heavy favorite to hold the seat for the GOP. 

OH-12:  Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County), who declared last year that he would resign from Congress to accept a position as head of the Ohio Business Roundtable, stated yesterday that he will officially leave the House on January 15th.  Once the seat becomes vacant, Gov. John Kasich (R) will schedule the special election to replace Mr. Tiberi.  It is likely that the state's May 8th regular primary election will serve as either the special primary or special general election.  The GOP is expected to hold what has performed as a safely Republican district.

PA-9:  In November, veteran Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg/Altoona) announced that he would seek re-election in 2018 even though his chairmanship of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is drawing to an end when the current Congress adjourns.  As 2018 begins, however, Mr. Shuster has suddenly reversed course and announced that he will not seek re-election after all.  Under its present configuration, the 9th District should remain safely Republican.  If the Democrats win their redistricting lawsuit, however, the district could drastically change in a re-draw, meaning this open seat could easily turn more Democratic

Governor

Virginia:  The Virginia House of Delegates' majority has come down to one single district that ended in a tied vote.  Therefore, literally one vote statewide is determining which party will control the chamber in the next legislative session.  After the state three-judge panel ruled that a particular contested ballot must be counted for Republican Delegate David Yancey (R-Newport News), the 94th District House of Delegates electoral outcome officially became a tie.  Democratic candidate Shelly Simonds asked for reconsideration, but the court again ruled the vote must be counted.  This led to the drawing of lots to determine who would officially win the election.  On Wednesday, the process was completed and Delegate Yancey won the draw.  Ms. Simonds apparently has the right to ask for yet another recount, and she already indicated that she will pursue such a course of action.  So, this post-election saga will apparently continue for some time, but for now the official ruling declares that Mr. Yancey is the winner.