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.

May 17, 2019
NC-9 Special Election Set for September Showdown
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Gov. Steve Bullock, NYC Mayor de Blasio - In
  • AZ-Sen: New Poll - Dead Heat
  • NH-Sen: Gov. Chris Sununu (R) - No to Senate
  • FL-26: Ex-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R) may return
  • IA-1, 2, & 3: Heavy Hawkeye state action
  • NC-9: Dan McCready (D), Dan Bishop (R) win primaries
  • MS-Gov: AG Jim Hood (D) takes lead in new poll


Gov. Steve Bullock:  As has been expected for some time, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) officially announced his presidential effort this week, becoming the 23rd Democratic candidate.  Mr. Bullock made the argument that he will be an effective national candidate because he's won two elections in a conservative state and has been able to earn legislative achievements, like Medicaid expansion, in negotiating with Republican leaders.

Mayor Bill de Blasio:  Following Gov. Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio released an announcement video at the end of the week making him the 24th Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election cycle.  His declaration centered around being the candidate for "working families," and cited the $15 minimum wage, a free pre-K school program, a comprehensive healthcare program that especially covers mental health, and paid sick leave. 

Florida:  Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to see strong polling numbers, with the latest data coming from Florida.  The Tel Opinion Research organization is reporting its latest results (released 5/8; 800 FL likely Democratic primary voters) that show Mr. Biden pulling away from his Democratic opponents on an open-ended ballot test poll.  An open-ended ballot test is one where the respondent is not given the candidates' names.  That approach tests for committed strength.

According to Tel Opinion, Mr. Biden leads Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 39-16%, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) each pulling 5% support.  South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg follows at 3% preference.  All the candidates scored well on the favorability index scale.  Mr. Biden is viewed positively in an 81:13% ratio, where Sen. Sanders' score is 68:23%. 


Arizona:Phoenix-based pollster OH Predictive Insights released the latest data from their May 1-2 poll (600 AZ likely voters) where they queried the respondent universe about the impending Senate race between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D). Though we are more than a year before Arizona's 2020 late August primary, the chances are strong that the aforementioned will be their respective party standard bearers.

According to the OH poll results, the early race again earns toss-up status. The sample breaks 45-44% in Sen. McSally's favor, which is virtually identical with the firm's late February poll giving the incumbent a 46-44% edge.

Iowa:After both former Governor and US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (D) and Rep. Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) declined to challenge Sen. Joni Ernst (R), the Democrats were left with no announced Senatorial candidate. That changed during the week when attorney Kimberly Graham announced that she would seek the Democratic nomination. We can expect others to join, but no current elected official is, to date, coming forward to oppose the first term Senator.

Montana:Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins (D) announced his intention to seek the Montana Democratic Senatorial nomination next year, with the hope of eventually challenging first-term Sen. Steve Daines (R). Mr. Collins, a native of Liberia, is the first African American to be elected as Helena's chief executive.

New Hampshire:After previously confirming that he was considering challenging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) next year, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced that he will instead seek a third two-year term as Governor in the 2020 election. Mr. Sununu was the strongest Republican the party could have fielded against the two-term Senator and former Governor. Preliminary polling showed a proposed Shaheen-Sununu race as being a virtual dead heat.


AL-5:Retired Navy Commander Chris Lewis yesterday announced that he will challenge Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) in next year's Republican congressional primary. Last week, Rep. Brooks made it clear he would not again run for the Senate, and in response to the Lewis challenge, made public his Senate endorsement for state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) who quarterbacked his 2017 statewide campaign. The Alabama state primary will run concurrently with the presidential race, meaning the nominating election will be March 3rd.

CA-15:State Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) announced late this week that he will run for Congress next year but would retreat to the legislature if Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), now a presidential candidate, returns to run for the House in the California primary. Another Democrat, Hayward City Councilwoman Aisha Wahab, is also in the race but has been less definitive about leaving the race if Rep. Swalwell were to come back.

CA-45:Late last week, a sixth Republican candidate came forward to enter the Orange County based 45th Congressional District race, still a year before the California primary election. In November, freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) defeated two-term Congresswoman Mimi Walters (R), 52-48%.

Orange County Board of Education member Lisa Sparks joined the crowded field that now includes a half-dozen Republicans beginning with Orange County Deputy District Attorney Ray Gennaway, and featuring Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Peggy Huang, Mission Viejo City Councilman Greg Raths, Laguna Hills Councilman Don Sedgwick, businessman Brenton Woolworth, and now Ms. Sparks.

FL-26:South Florida ex-Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami), who lost his seat 51-49% to current freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami) last November indicated yesterday during a trip to DC that he has not ruled out attempting to re-capture his former position. It had been a widely held belief that Mr. Curbelo was planning to enter the Miami-Dade Mayor's race, but apparently his plans are not yet solidified.

IA-1:State Representative and former local television anchor Ashley Hinson (R-Marion) announced that she will challenge freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Dubuque) in Iowa's northeastern quadrant. In November, Ms. Finkenauer, herself then a sitting state Representative, unseated two-term Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque), 50-45%. For his part, Mr. Blum has indicated he is considering running again but has made no firm decision.

IA-2:Republican Bobby Schilling served one term in Congress from western Illinois' 17th District, losing his re-election bid in 2012. Re-locating across the Mississippi River to Iowa in 2017, former Congressman Schilling looks to make a political comeback. It is expected that he will soon announce his candidacy for Iowa's open 2nd Congressional District.

In April, Rep. David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) made public his decision not to seek an eighth term. Former state Senator and 2018 Lt. Governor nominee Rita Hart (D) announced that she will run in the 2nd Congressional District next year, attempting to succeed Mr. Loebsack. Ms. Hart is the first Democrat to come forward for the competitive open seat that should lean to her party. Previously, Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley announced for the Republican nomination.

IA-3:Former Rep. David Young (R) lost his seat to freshman Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) last year, and he announced last week that he will return for a re-match. But it appears he will have to fight for the party nomination. This week, retired Army Colonel Bill Schafer (R) said that he will run for the position and state Sen. Zach Wahls (R-Coralville) has embarked on a "listening tour" of the congressional district and expects to make a decision about becoming a candidate in July.

NJ-11:Financier Reinier Prijten (R) announced yesterday that he is ending his month-old congressional bid. Mr. Prijten was looking to challenge freshman Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair/Morristown) in next year's general election. Mr. Prijten's chief reason for discontinuing his political effort: he does not live in New Jersey, now or ever before.

NC-9:The special primary to begin the process of filling the vacant 9th Congressional District was held on Tuesday and Democrat Dan McCready, who was unopposed in his primary, and Republican Dan Bishop, a Charlotte state Senator, advanced into the September 10th special general election.

Sen. Bishop took 48% of the vote, well exceeding the 30% threshold needed for nomination against nine other Republicans. The seat was vacant because the November race leader, Mark Harris (R), was denied a certificate of election due to voter fraud allegations in one county.

This will be a competitive special general, but with Mr. McCready already raising over $2 million for the effort, he will be cast as an early favorite despite the voter history here favoring the Republicans.

TX-23:Ex-US Trade official and military veteran Gina Ortiz Jones (D) late this week made official her intention to seek a re-match with Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio). Ms. Jones came within 926 votes of unseating the three-term Congressman last November and will return to again become a congressional candidate. Obviously, this race will be a major Democratic conversion target, and enters the election cycle with a toss-up rating.


Mississippi:The Hickman Analytics research organization, polling for the Jim Hood (D) for Governor campaign, tested the Mississippi electorate in preparation for the 2019 state chief executive race, which will be held in November of this year. The position is open because Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

According to the Hickman results (5/5-9; 604 MS likely 2019 gubernatorial election voters), Attorney General Hood would lead Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R), 45-40%, if the election were in the present. Both have August primary opposition, but each is expected to easily win their respective party nominations.

May 10, 2019
Sen. Enzi Retirement Becomes Fourth Open Senate Seat of 2020 Election Cycle
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: NYC Mayor de Blasio (D)...not yet
  • AL-Sen: Ex-Sen. Jeff Sessions coming back?
  • WY-Sen: Sen. Mike Enzi (R) will retire
  • CA-10: Ex-Rep. Jeff Denham (R) won't run in 2020
  • IA-3: Ex-Rep. David Young (R) will seek re-match
  • NC-9: Special Election polling data


Mayor Bill de Blasio:  Rumors were circulating early this week that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was going to announce his presidential campaign.  But that did not happen.  Mr. de Blasio was quoted as saying, "you can't have an announcement before there's a decision."

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard:  The first cross-party endorsement has already been made for the 2020 election, and it goes to Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Former presidential candidate and veteran Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) has publicly endorsed Ms. Gabbard saying she is "by far the very, very best...".    It is unclear how much this endorsement will help her in Democratic primaries, but it certainly demonstrates an attempt to project a wide appeal.

Indiana:  A small sample We Ask America poll was conducted among selected likely Indiana Democratic primary voters (4/29-5/5; 280 likely Dem primary voters) and the results found former Vice President Joe Biden leading, but the margin was closer than in most other polled states.  The WAA data finds the ex-VP with 33% support compared to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) 23%, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who posted 20%.

Maryland:   As rumors continue that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan may launch a Republican primary challenge to President Trump, Gonzales Research, Marketing & Strategy, a Maryland-based company, polled the GOP electorate (4/29-4/4; 203 MD likely primary voters).  Though the sample size is very small, the President's margin is very large.  The results find Mr. Trump holding a 68-24% advantage over Gov. Hogan in the latter man's home state.

Massachusetts:  In an effort to deny former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld some home state delegates, the MA Republican Party adopted a new rule that changes Massachusetts into a winner-take-all state.  The Trump campaign wants a unanimous vote at the convention, and Massachusetts making the move to winner-take-all status makes such a goal more achievable.

New Hampshire:  In early May, we've seen two pollsters survey the New Hampshire Democratic electorate and arrive at very diverse results.  As we've previously reported, the Fireside Strategies/Optima poll (551 respondents) found former Vice President Joe Biden opening up a strong 34-16-10% lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.  But, Change Research (864 respondents) countered with data finding Sen. Sanders holding a 30-26-12% margin over Biden and Buttigieg, respectively. Now, Monmouth University reports its findings of their May 2-7 poll with 376 likely Democratic primary voters. They side with Fireside, as the numbers project Mr. Biden to be holding a 36-18-9% advantage over Sanders and Buttigieg, respectively.


Alabama:  US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), who ran for the Senate in the 2017 special election and placed third in the field of candidates, has now made clear his plans regarding the 2020 Senate campaign.  In a radio interview, Rep. Brooks definitively declared that he will not be a 2020 statewide candidate.  This means Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), state Auditor Jim Zeigler, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs Valley), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, and possibly Secretary of State John Merrill (R) are the major candidates vying to challenge first-term incumbent Doug Jones (D).

Additionally, former US Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R) is re-emerging. Originally stating that he wanted to get away to the Alabama woods for a while when asked if he would consider entering the 2020 Senate primary, Mr. Sessions may now be issuing different signals.  This week, he responded that he is "interested in the issues" when asked about the Senate race, prompting some to surmise that Mr. Sessions has not necessarily ruled out becoming a candidate.

Colorado:  Former state House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D) announced that she will enter the crowded Democratic US Senate primary. Her move means there are now 12 announced candidates vying for the opportunity of challenging first-term Republican Senator Cory Gardner in the general election.  Among the dozen, however, no one has ever won a statewide race.  The most well-known of the group are former state House Speaker and defeated US House and Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, ex-US Ambassador Dan Baer who briefly entered a 2018 House campaign, former appointed US Attorney John Walsh, and ex-state Senator and defeated gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston.

Georgia:  We remember Democrat Jon Ossoff who raised a record amount of money for his 2017 special election in Georgia's 6th District, a race he lost to Republican Karen Handel. Though winning the special election and overcoming his $31.6 million treasury, Ms. Handel could not hold the seat in the regular election, losing a one-percentage point result to current Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta).  Now Mr. Ossoff is toying with another candidacy, but this time it's for the US Senate.  Ossoff confirmed he is considering challenging Sen. David Perdue (R) now that 2018 gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams (D) has decided not to run for the Senate.  Already in the Democratic primary is Columbus former Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and several minor candidates.

North Carolina:  Former CEO and conservative activist Garland Tucker announced that he will enter the Republican Senate primary against first-term Sen. Thom Tillis (R).  Rumors of a primary challenge became rampant when Sen. Tillis publicly began to oppose President Trump's state of emergency action regarding the country's southern border.  Sen. Tillis later supported the idea, but he obviously caused himself long-lasting damage with the base Trump supporters in the NC GOP.

Wyoming:  Four-term Senator Mike Enzi (R) announced on Saturday that he will not seek re-election next year.  This becomes the fourth open Senate seat of the 2020 election cycle, three of which are Republican held.  Most of the action will come in the Republican primary from one of the GOP's best states.  At-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson) is the name most often mentioned as a possible candidate.  Former Gov. Matt Mead (R) is also a possibility, as well as several statewide office holders.  At the end of the week, it emerged that former Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) is also reported to be considering entering the Senate campaign.


CA-10:  Ex-Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), who served four terms in the House, just accepted a position in Washington and said this week that he is ruling out any re-match campaign for the US House.  Last November, Mr. Denham lost to now-freshman Rep. Josh Harder (D-Turlock/ Modesto) on a 52-48% count.  Three Republicans have already announced their candidacies to oppose Rep. Harder, including former Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze who entered the race against Mr. Denham last year and received 15% of the jungle primary vote in an eight-person candidate field.

FL-7:  Though sophomore Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) has already shown electoral strength, she is drawing a crowd of opponents for her next re-election.  This week, attorney and former congressional candidate Vennia Francois announced her candidacy, joining businessman and National Guardsman Thomas Delia, anti-human trafficking advocate Jan Edwards, and college student Armani Salado.  It is unclear if any of these can mount a credible challenge, but the level of early activity here is significant.

GA-13:   Former Cobb County Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens announced that he will again challenge Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta) for re-nomination next year.  Accusing Mr. Scott of straying from the party on too many key issues and supporting Republican candidates for certain races, Mr. Owens said he is again ready to forge a challenge to the nine-term Congressman.  The first time the two faced each other occurred in a 2014 primary election. Then, Rep. Scott thrashed Owens 82-18%, so the Congressman obviously begins this new campaign as a prohibitive favorite.

IA-2:  Rep. David Loebsack's (D-Iowa City) early retirement announcement obviously caught a great many southeastern Iowa politicos by surprise because almost a month after his creating an open competitive seat in the 2020 election, no one in either party had come forward to declare a candidacy.  That has now changed. Osceola Mayor Thomas Kedley (R) officially entered the Republican congressional primary this week, and we assume many more candidates in both parties will be coming forward to run.

IA-3:   Former Rep. David Young (R), who lost his congressional seat to Democrat Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) in November, said yesterday that he will return for a re-match.  Other defeated Republican members are considering comebacks, but Mr. Young is the first to make his candidacy official.  The two battled to a two-point decision, with Ms. Axne unseating Mr. Young, 49-47%, a difference of 7,709 votes of more than 360,000 cast.

NC-9:  Public Policy Polling went into the field to test the Republican special election candidates two weeks before the May 14th primary vote.  The survey (4/29-30; 592 NC-9 likely GOP primary voters) finds state Senator Dan Bishop (R-Charlotte) positioned with a chance not only to finish first in the field of ten candidates but potentially exceeding the 30% threshold to win the party nomination outright.  The poll totals show Sen. Bishop attracting 31% support with his next closest rival, Union County Supervisor Stony Rushing, garnering 17%. Realtor Leigh Brown could be the wild card.  Sitting at 6%, outside resources being spent to support her campaign could be enough to push her into second place while denying Sen. Bishop the plurality victory.

If a run-off is necessitated, the vote will be scheduled for September 10th.  If the Republicans nominate a candidate on May 14th, the special general then occupies the 9/10 date. Otherwise, the general will be held November 5th. Democrat Dan McCready is unopposed for the party nomination, so he will automatically advance into the special general.  The seat is vacant because voter fraud allegations kept the 2018 election result from being certified.

Ohio Redistricting:   A federal three-judge panel struck down the Ohio congressional district boundaries, ruling that the map is a political gerrymander.  The Buckeye State now joins a long list of places dealing with similar decisions that have already been rendered in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, and Wisconsin.  The real action, however, is before the US Supreme Court, where potentially definitive binding rulings on the North Carolina and Maryland cases could remand all of the pending cases with clearer direction as to what constitutes gerrymandering.  The high court decisions are expected before June ends.


Louisiana:  JMC Analytics, a regular pollster of the Louisiana electorate, just reported the results of their new survey (4/25-27 & 29; 650 LA registered voters) for the upcoming Governor's election.  According to the JMC data, the October 12th jungle primary finds Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) leading US Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/ Monroe) and developer Eddie Rispone (R), 38-23-7%.  In tested general election run-offs, Gov. Edwards would top Rep. Abraham by a slight 40-36% count, while his advantage against Rispone would balloon to 41-28%.

May 3, 2019
Decision Time for Top Candidate Recruits
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) joins race
  • AL-Sen: Sec of State John Merrill (R) considers Senate campaign
  • GA-Sen: Former gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams says no
  • IA-Sen: No Dems yet oppose Sen. Joni Ernst (R)
  • TX-Sen: Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) says no to Senate challenge
  • NC-3: GOP in run-off; ex-Mayor Allen Thomas win D nomination


Sen. Michael Bennet:  Somewhat surprisingly, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet joined the Democratic presidential parade at the end of the week.  Last month, Mr. Bennet confirmed his interest in becoming a national candidate but announced that he had prostate cancer.  Now, after having the necessary surgery and claiming he has a clean bill of health, Sen. Bennet has joined the burgeoning field of candidates that is approaching the two-dozen mark in number.

CNN/Q-Poll:  CNN (conducted by the SRSS research firm; 4/25-28; 1,007 US adults; 411 likely Democratic primary voters) and Quinnipiac University (4/26-29; 1,044 US registered voters; 419 self-identified Democrats and lean Democratic voters) released new national polls that find former Vice President Joe Biden receiving a major bump from his national candidacy announcement.  According to the pair of surveys, Mr. Biden has again surged to a clear lead for the Democratic nomination.  But, the small 411-respondent CNN sample and Q-Poll's 419-person segment leaves a lot of room for polling error.

CNN's results find Mr. Biden claiming 39% of the Democratic vote, his largest vote share to date. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who was neck-and-neck with Biden before the announcement, drops back to 15% in this poll.  No other candidate reaches 10%, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in third place at 8%, South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg following closely with 7%, ex-Congressman Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) posting 6%, and California Sen. Kamala Harris recording 5% preference.  All the others fail to break 2%. The Q-Poll finds Mr. Biden polling a similar 38% and Sen. Warren moving to second at 12%.  Sen. Sanders drops to third with 11% preference, while Mayor Buttigieg is the only other contender reaching double-digits posting 10% support.

NH Poll:  Though Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is from a neighboring state and has done well in the most recent New Hampshire primary, a new Suffolk University poll (4/25-28; 429 NH likely Democratic primary voters) finds former Vice President Joe Biden lurching out to a substantial 20-12-12% lead over Sanders and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the first-in-the-nation-primary state.  In fourth position is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who posts 8%, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) following at 6% support.  Ex-Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are tied with 3% apiece.


Alabama:  So far, most of the attention paid to who will oppose Sen. Doug Jones (D) has centered around former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and members of the congressional delegation, naturally including announced candidate Bradley Byrne, the Mobile area Congressman.  On Friday, Secretary of State John Merrill (R) came forward to declare his interest in becoming a candidate.

Mr. Merrill would be the second statewide contender.  Just before the first of the year, state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) declared that he was exploring the Senate race but has not shown much in the way of activity, since.

Georgia:  While still not ruling out that she will join the 2020 presidential field, former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams (D) said she will not run for the US Senate next year. She had been publicly considering a challenge race against first-term Sen. David Perdue (R) and promised a decision by the end of April.  Now attention turns to former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson (D), who said she would run for the Senate if Ms. Abrams did not.

Iowa:  The Democratic leadership's second choice to oppose Sen. Joni Ernst (R) has also said no. Earlier, former Governor and ex-US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (D) said he would not return to Iowa to launch a US Senate challenge.  Once Mr. Vilsack made the decision not to run, the party leadership began attempting to convince freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-West Des Moines) to oppose Sen. Ernst.  This week, Rep. Axne announced that she will seek re-election to the House.  Currently there are no officially announced Democrats in the Iowa Senate race.

New Jersey:  2018 candidate Hirsh Singh, who originally was in the 2nd Congressional District but lost the Republican primary, announced his intention to oppose Sen. Cory Booker (D) next year.  The Senate campaign will be a political suicide run for Singh, since Sen. Booker will be re-elected regardless of how his presidential campaign unfolds.  But, in a way, his move to the Senate likely helps the Republicans clear the way in order to recruit a more credible consensus opponent to freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May).  Additionally, healthcare business consultant Tricia Flanagan has also declared her intention to seek the Republican Senatorial nomination.

New Mexico:  GBAO Strategy & Research conducted the first poll of the open seat Democratic primary (4/15-18; 600 NM likely Democratic primary voters) and finds Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/ Santa Fe) jumping out to a huge 64-25% lead over just-announced Senate candidate Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the New Mexico Secretary of State.

Texas:  This week, as expected, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) announced that he will not enter the statewide Democratic primary to ultimately challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R) next year.  That Mr. Castro arrived at this decision some time ago became evident by not attempting to build a statewide organization and his lack of raising sufficient funds to compete. The Castro decision means that 2018 congressional candidate and retired Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar (D), who lost to Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock), 51-48% in November, becomes the clear early Democratic alternative to Sen. Cornyn.


CA-22:  In March 2018 congressional nominee Andrew Janz (D), who raised over $8 million for his losing congressional race against Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), indicated he was looking toward the Fresno Mayor's race instead of seeking a congressional re-match. Yesterday, Mr. Janz formally made the decision and announced his candidacy to oppose Mayor Lee Brand in this year's non-partisan campaign.

CA-39:  Former state Assemblywoman Young Kim (R), like several other 2018 California Republican congressional candidates, was leading after the votes were counted on last November's election night.  Yet, as the weeks of counting post-election ballots continued, the final result turned against her.   Late this week, Ms. Kim announced that she will return next year for a re-match with freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda).  Rep. Cisneros won the November election, 51.6 - 48.4% with a turnout of just over 244,000 voters.  Hillary Clinton carried the 39th in 2016 by a 51-43% count.

GA-7:  State Rep. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross), who originally indicated she wouldn't run for Congress, has changed her mind and announced her candidacy.  She becomes the sixth Democrat to enter the open seat race.  The field includes 2018 nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux who lost the general election by a scant 419 votes, the closest raw vote election in the country.

MA-6:  Now that Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) has announced for the presidency, and even though he says he may return to the congressional primary, several politicos are already beginning to make moves.  Last week, we covered that Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Swampscott) announced her candidacy and will remain in the race even if Moulton returns.  Now, it's being reported that former Rep. John Tierney (D), the man Mr. Moulton defeated in the 2014 Democratic primary, might also have interest in launching a new congressional campaign. Others, including former state Sen. Barbara L'Italien (D), are also publicly confirming that they are considering forming candidacies.

MI-3:  Five-term Michigan Rep. Justin Amash (R-Cascade Township/Grand Rapids) will have a Republican primary challenger, possibly his first of any substance since his 2014 campaign.  Iraq War veteran Tom Norton announced that he will oppose Rep. Amash for the GOP nomination. Assuming Norton can raise some early money to become credible, mounting a primary challenge here could catch some fire since the Congressman has alienated many in his own party.

MN-1:  Another re-do campaign looks to be on tap in southern Minnesota.  In one of three Democratic seats that flipped to the Republicans, and one of those was due solely to Pennsylvania redistricting, freshman Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth/Rochester) nipped Democrat Dan Feehan by just 1,315 votes last November, a 50.1 - 49.7% victory margin. Yesterday, Mr. Feehan announced that he will return for a re-match next year.

NY-5:  Marine Corps veteran Shaniyat Chowdhury (D), a strong supporter of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx) and her wing of the Democratic Party, announced that he will challenge 12-term Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Queens) in next year's June party primary election. The 5th District, 90% of which lies in Queens Borough with the remaining territory in Nassau County and centered around JFK International Airport, is solidly Democratic.  Hillary Clinton attracted 86% of the vote here in 2016, for example.

NC-3:  Early this week in eastern and coastal North Carolina, almost 69,000 voters cast ballots in the special congressional primary election.  The eventual winner replaces the late Rep. Walter Jones (R-Farmville), who passed away in February.

In the field of 17 Republicans, state Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Greenville), taking advantage of a very strong performance in his home region, placed first with 22.5% of the vote.  Because Rep. Murphy did not exceed the 30% threshold, he and physician Joan Perry advance to a July 9th run-off election.

For the Democrats, former Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas easily won the Democratic primary over five opponents.  He drew just over 50% of the vote, topping retired Marine Corps Colonel Richard Bew and New Bern Mayor Dana Outlaw by better than 2:1 respective margin.   Mr. Thomas directly advances to the special general election on September 10th.

NC-11:  Becoming the first candidate of the cycle to challenge four-term Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/Hendersonville), retired US Air Force officer Steve Woodsmall (D) announced that he will oppose the Freedom Caucus chairman next year.  Rep. Meadows should be secure in his safely Republican western North Carolina district (Trump '16: 63-34%; Romney '12: 60-39%), so Mr. Woodsmall faces a difficult task in making major inroads.  Quite possibly, a primary challenge in this district would be more competitive than a general election effort.

April 26, 2019
Republicans Field House Challengers
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Ex-VP Joe Biden (D) Officially Announces   
  • Polls: Change Research and Ipsos-Reuters National Presidential
  • KS, NM, TX: Senate Candidacy Announcements
  • IL-6:  Ex-Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti (R) Announces House Bid
  • OK-5:  State Sen. Stephanie Bice (R) to Oppose Rep. Kendra Horn (D)
  • Gov:  Morning Consult Approvals for all 50 Governors


Joe Biden:  Former Vice President and ex-Delaware Senator Joe Biden made his long-awaited presidential announcement this week. Though Mr. Biden is normally found atop the national polling statistics, his edge has tightened during the past few weeks and now generally lapses into a tied realm with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Opponents are ready to launch attacks against his long record in the Senate, so we can anticipate a very active period of months as the 20 candidates seriously begin to prepare for the Iowa Caucus on February 3rd.

Rep. Seth Moulton: Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton (D-Salem) also became an official Democratic presidential candidate and will clearly make neighboring New Hampshire, the site of the nation's first primary, the key launching site for his long shot campaign.

Mr. Moulton is not forced to risk his congressional seat to run for President, since the Massachusetts federal primary is not until September, long after the state's voters chooses it presidential nominee in early March. Should his presidential effort fail, which is likely, he will face credible Democratic primary opposition for re-nomination. State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Swampscott) has already announced her intention to run.

Change Poll: A new Change Research poll, with a large national sample (4/12-15; 2,519 likely Democratic primary voters) finds former Vice President Joe Biden's national lead dropping to one percentage point, 21-20%, over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Now, closely in the third place according to this data, is South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who pulls support from 17% of the polling sample.

Ipsos-Reuters Poll: Contrasting with the Change Poll results, the new national Ipsos-Reuters poll (4/17-23; 4,018 adults; 1,449 self-identified Democrats and 788 self-identified Independents from an online panel) brings former Vice President Joe Biden some good news. According to the results, Mr. Biden has re-established a significant lead, topping Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) 24-15%, with South Bend (IN) Mayor Pete Buttigieg placing third at 7% support. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) follow closely with each registering 6% preference.  The poll's methodology is questionable, meaning the results are plagued with a large error factor.

New York Schedules: New York Democratic state party chairman Jay Jacobs, in consultation with Republican state party chairman Ed Cox, announced that the New York presidential primary will be held on April 28, 2020. Strategically, the Democratic leaders wanted their state to have more influence over the presidential campaign, so they chose the April date instead of waiting for the regular election New York primary, which is likely to be scheduled less than 60 days later on June 23rd. The New York delegation will consist of 224 first ballot voting eligible delegates, making it the largest state to vote after March 17th.


Alabama: State Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said this week that he will not enter the contested 2020 Senate Republican primary for the chance of opposing Sen. Doug Jones (D). As has been the case in several other statewide races, Sen. Marsh sends out signals that he may run only to back away well before the candidate filing deadline. Currently in the GOP race are Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), state Auditor Jim Zeigler, and former University of Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, along with two minor candidates. Converting the Alabama Senate seat is critical to boost Republicans' odds of holding their Senate majority.

Kansas: Former Kansas US Attorney Barry Grissom (D), who served in that position for six years of the Obama Administration, said he plans to announce his US Senate campaign on July 1st.  Former one-term Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Topeka), who was defeated for re-election in 2008, also says she is considering entering the Senate race. Sen. Pat Roberts (R) is retiring after four terms.

New Mexico: Despite US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) securing key endorsements such as his latest from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) announced that she will run for the party nomination in hopes of succeeding retiring Sen. Tom Udall (D). In November, Ms. Oliver was re-elected to a four-year term with a 58-37% margin. Therefore, she will not have to risk her current position to run for the Senate. Rep. Lujan is favored for the nomination and the general election. So far, the only Republican to declare for the race is Gavin Clarkson, the college professor who Ms. Oliver defeated in November.

Tennessee: Triton Research, polling for the Tennessee Star news site (4/13-16; 1,003 TN likely Republican primary voters), finds that former Gov. Bill Haslam is not quite a lock for the open Republican nomination as many believe. No Republican, including Mr. Haslam, has yet announced their candidacy.

According to Triton, while President Trump boasts an 88% positive rating among Republicans with Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R) at 76% and new Gov. Bill Lee (R) at 73.5%, Mr. Haslam only polls 49% favorability. And, in a hypothetical pairing with freshman Rep. Mark Green (R-Clarksville), the former two-term state chief executive would lead only 39-30%. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) is retiring.

Texas: Former Army helicopter pilot M.J. Hegar (D), who held veteran Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) to a 51-48% re-election victory in November will now challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R). The move could also signal that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), who was sounding like a Senate candidate earlier in the year, will not run.

Ms. Hegar raised $5.12 million for the congressional campaign and should be able to attract large sums for the Senate race. Earlier, when speculation was rampant that Rep. Castro would run, Ms. Hegar said his presence in the Democratic primary would not dissuade her from launching her own effort. Sen. Cornyn is certainly favored for re-election, especially since he was the top incumbent fundraiser in the first quarter with $7.8 million raised, but Ms. Hegar will provide credible competition.


CA-39: Republican former Assemblywoman Young Kim, who lost a 52-48% race to freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) after leading at the end of election night counting, looks to be gearing up for a second attempt. Ms. Kim, while not confirming she will run, just filed a new congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission. The move allows her to begin raising money but does not fully mean she will become a candidate. All signs, however, suggest that a re-match is likely.

IL-6: Former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti (R), who left office when Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) was defeated in November, said she will enter the 6th District Republican primary next year with the hope of challenging freshman Rep. Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove). With defeated former Congressman Peter Roskam (R) not making any moves to seek a re-match, Ms. Sanguinetti could well be the Republicans' top recruitment choice.

IL-14: Businessman and former Notre Dame football player Ted Gradel joined the forming 14th District Republican candidate field to challenge freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville). The new Congresswoman defeated Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) in 2018 to convert this long-held GOP seat to the Democratic column. Mr. Gradel joins state Senator and frequent candidate Jim Oberweis, software company executive Matt Quigley, human resources corporate executive Danny Malouf, and Army veteran Anthony Catella in the GOP field of candidates. The voting history here suggests that this will be battleground district next year.

NY-15: State Assemblyman Michael Blake (D-Bronx), a former Obama White House aide, filed a congressional committee with the Federal Election Committee, which is the first step toward becoming an official candidate. If he moves forward, he will join New York City Councilmen Ritchie Torres and Ruben Diaz, Sr. as candidates, along with Bronx River Community Center Director Tomas Ramos, financial advisor Chivona Renee Newsome, and non-profit organization executive Jonathan Ortiz in the Democratic primary. Since NY-15 is literally the safest Democratic seat in the nation - President Trump received 4.9% of the vote here in 2016 - the eventual party nominee will replace retiring Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) in November.

NJ-7: As promised, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), the son of former Governor Tom Kean, Sr. and a former US House and Senate candidate, formally announced his campaign for the 7th Congressional District.  Looking like a consensus Republican candidate, Sen. Kean will very likely face freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) in the general election.  Mr. Kean in the Republicans top choice to run here, and the nature of this CD suggests we will again see a highly competitive battle next year.

OK-5: One of the biggest 2018 upsets occurred in Oklahoma City, where upstart Democrat Kendra Horn unseated two-term Republican Congressman Steve Russell (R). Since OK-5 is one of the more reliable Republican districts that switched to the Democrats last year, we can expect this seat will be a top tier GOP conversion target for the entire election cycle. Late this week, state Senator Stephanie Bice (R-Oklahoma City) announced that she will challenge Rep. Horn. Ms. Bice chairs the Senate Finance Committee, so it is clear that she is an accomplished legislator who should be able to run a credible challenge campaign.


Approvals: The Morning Consult organization published its new quarterly approval indexes for the nation's 50 Governors, and the top eleven with the most positive ratings (from 73% to 54%) are all Republicans. The most positively rated Democrat, also with 54% approval, is Delaware's John Carney.

As has been the case for quite some time, Govs. Charlie Baker (R-MA) and Larry Hogan (R-MD) continue to record the highest gubernatorial positive ratings at 73 and 71%, respectively. New Englanders appear pleased with their Governors because three of the five best rated state chief executives are located among the six New England states. In addition to Gov. Baker, New Hampshire's Chris Sununu (64% positive) and Vermont's Phil Scott (59% favorable) land in the top five.

But the news is not all good, and especially so for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who faces a tough re-election campaign this year. His 33:52% favorable to unfavorable ratio is the worst in the nation. Not far behind is Connecticut newcomer Ned Lamont (D), who posts a 33:38% positive to negative ratio.  Rhode Island's Gina Raimondo (D) and Oregon's Kate Brown (D) are the other two where the negative rating exceeds the positive.

April 19, 2019
Surprising House Retirement in Iowa
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Sanders leading Biden 29-24% in Emerson poll    
  • CO-Sen: Sen. Cory Gardner (R) draws more opponents
  • IA-2: Rep. David Loebsack (D) to retire
  • NJ-7: Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R) to run and will likely face freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D)
  • KY-Gov: Dem poll gives Attorney General Andy Beshear big lead in primary


Emerson Poll:  The new Emerson College poll (4/11-14; 356 Democratic likely primary voters) is getting some media attention because it projects Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) overtaking former Vice President Joe Biden for the national lead by a 29-24% count.  Following in third place is newly announced presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend (IN), with 9% support.  Ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) are next with 8% apiece, just ahead of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren who posts 7% preference. All others record 3% or less.

But the result analysis is overblown. Because the Democratic sample comes from a national general election poll universe, the segmented cell is much too small to accurately gauge candidate support throughout the nation.  While a sample of 356 individuals is quite adequate for a congressional district, it is barely one-third the size necessary to provide relevant national data.  Therefore, further verifying evidence of an enhanced Sanders positive trend is required before suggesting that the Senator may be pulling away from the candidate field.


Colorado:  While the Democratic field to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R) appears weak after former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) decided to run for President instead of Senate, two potentially stronger individuals declared their candidacies this week.

Former Obama Administration diplomat Dan Baer, who in 2018 began running for what appeared to be an open 7th District congressional office when incumbent Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) declared for Governor but then withdrew when the Congressman decided to seek re-election, is one of the new candidates. Immediately after the Baer announcement, former US Attorney John Walsh also joined the fray.  Until these two men entered the race, the leading candidates appeared to be former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has lost races for both the US House and Senate, and ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston who placed third in last year's Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Maine:  Earlier, we commented that Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-North Haven/Portland) was giving no indication that she would challenge Sen. Susan Collins (R) next year, and now we have more tangible evidence to support such a conclusion.

Complying with yesterday's campaign finance disclosure deadline, Rep. Pingree reports only raising $26,000 for the first quarter of this year and holding $232,000 in her campaign account. These are hardly numbers one would expect from a serious potential Senate candidate, especially when Sen. Collins holds $3.8 million in her campaign account.

North Carolina:   Former state Senator Eric Mansfield (D-Cape Fear), a physician, announced that he is forming a US Senate exploratory committee as a prelude to entering the 2020 campaign. Dr. Mansfield served one term in the NC Senate, risking his seat in 2012 to run for Lt. Governor. He failed to secure the statewide Democratic nomination.

Already in the Democratic primary are state Sen. Erica Smith (D-Gaston) and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller.  The winner will challenge first-term incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis (R).  So far, North Carolina candidate recruitment has disappointed Democratic Party leaders since no statewide figure has come forward to enter the race.


CA-15:  Northern California Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin/ Hayward) has announced his presidential campaign, but he hasn't completely ruled out returning to the House if his long shot national effort comes up empty.  The Congressman left the door open to changing course before the California candidate filing deadline on December 6th of this year in order to seek re-election.

At least one political player, however, isn't waiting for Rep. Swalwell to make his decision. Hayward City Councilwoman Aisha Wahab announced her congressional campaign late last week, and there was no mention of departing the race if the four-term Representative ultimately decides to seek re-election.  Additionally, state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) confirms that he, too, is preparing to file a congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission.

IA-2:  Seven-term Iowa Congressman David Loebsack (D-Iowa City) announced that he will not seek re-election next year. Mr. Loebsack, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, originally defeated then-Rep. Jim Leach (R) in 2006. Rep. Loebsack's surprising retirement announcement has changed the southeastern Iowa political equation.  Thus, no one has immediately come forward to run for the House.

Yesterday, however, state Sen. Kevin Kinney (D-Oxford) confirmed that he is considering entering what is now an open seat race. Same for Iowa City local business owner Veronica Tessler (D) who has already filed a campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission.  The eventual Democratic nominee will be favored here, but we can expect crowded and competitive primaries in both parties.

NJ-7:  As promised, state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), the son of former Governor Tom Kean, Sr. and a former US House and Senate candidate, formerly announced his campaign for the 7th Congressional District.  Looking like a consensus Republican candidate, Sen. Kean will very likely face freshman Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill) in the general election.  Mr. Kean in the Republicans top choice to run here, and the nature of this CD suggests we will again see a highly competitive battle next year.

NY-10:  Former Cuomo Administration economic advisor Lindsey Boylan, who said earlier in the year she is considering challenging House Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan) in the 2020 Democratic primary, yesterday took a step closer to launching her campaign.  Ms. Boylan filed a congressional campaign committee with the Federal Election Commission, which is the prelude to becoming an official candidate.

NY-15:  New York City Councilman and self-proclaimed "conservative Democrat" Ruben Diaz, Sr. announced that he will run in the open 15th District Democratic primary for the right to succeed retiring Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx).  Mr. Diaz hopes to appeal to moderate and right of center Democratic voters, a small group in this district, which is the most Democratic in the entire nation at least based upon the 2016 presidential results.

NY-21:  Former St. Lawrence County local legislator Tedra Cobb (D), who challenged three-term Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville/ Watertown) last year but lost by a substantial 56-42% margin, announced that she will return for a rerun contest next year.  The area now comprising the 21st District had been in Democratic hands until Ms. Stefanik succeeded retiring Congressman Bill Owens in the 2014 election.  At this early point in the cycle, Rep. Stefanik, who at the time she was elected was the youngest female ever to win a US House seat (30 years of age), begins the 2020 race as a strong favorite for re-election.

NY-24:  This week 2018 Democratic congressional nominee Dana Balter announced that she will return to run for Congress again next year.  Ms. Balter, who drew mixed reviews as a candidate despite holding Rep. John Katko (R-Syracuse) to a 52-46% re-election victory, will have company in the Democratic primary.  In addition to Navy veteran Roger Misso (D), who previously joined the congressional campaign, a new military veteran, Francis Conole, the grandson of former Onondaga County Sheriff Patrick Conole, yesterday announced his intention to run.

UT-4:  Freshman Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Salt Lake City) unseating former Rep. Mia Love (R) by 694 votes in November means he can expect a major re-election battle in what should be a safely Republican seat.  Yesterday, two Republican legislators signaled that they are beginning to take steps toward entering the congressional race.  State Sen. Dan McCay (R-Riverton) and state Rep. Kim Coleman (R-West Jordan) both say they are considering becoming candidates. This district figures to be in the top five Republican conversion targets in 2020.

VA-5:  One freshman congressional district that won't feature the same 2018 candidates is Virginia's 5th CD.  This week, Democratic nominee Leslie Cockburn, who secured 47% of the vote against businessman Denver Riggleman (R), says she will not return for another campaign. Remaining in the Democratic primary is Marine Corps veteran Roger Dean Huffstetler, who finished second in the 2018 Democratic contest.  Without another strong contender entering, Mr. Huffstetler will likely have the inside track to winning the party nomination and then facing Rep. Riggleman late next year.


Kentucky:  The May 21st Democratic gubernatorial primary is fast approaching, and former state Auditor Adam Edelen just released his campaign's Anzalone Liszt Grove Research survey (released 4/18; 500 KY likely Democratic primary voters).  According to the results, Attorney General Andy Beshear, son of former Governor Steve Beshear, leads the field with 43% of the vote.  Mr. Edelen is second with 23%, and Mr. Adkins follows closely with 22%.

It is clear that AG Beshear is the man to beat and even his opponent's data suggests that his primary lead may be too much for any of his challengers to overcome.  The winner will do battle with Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in what will be a competitive 2019 general election.

Mississippi:  What was once thought to be a walk for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves in the Republican gubernatorial primary may turn into more of a challenge.  This week, four former Mississippi Republican Party ex-chairmen jointly endorsed Republican retired state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller, Jr. over Mr. Reeves. If Judge Waller can prove an adept fundraiser, this early August primary may be more of a race than originally perceived.

Montana: In 2016, businessman Greg Gianforte (R) came within four points of unseating Gov. Steve Bullock (D), who is now apparently preparing to enter the Democratic presidential campaign.  Ever since, speculation has continued that Mr. Gianforte would return to the Governor's race in 2020.  Since then, he won a special and regular election for the state's at-large House seat, and one of the promises he gave the party leaders in that original congressional race was not to quickly leave the seat to again run for Governor.

This week, a Gianforte staff member confirmed, however, that the Congressman is considering the Governor's campaign and has not yet ruled out joining the open seat race, a contest that already features Attorney General Tim Fox (R) and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton (R). Should Gianforte make the leap back into the Governor's race, we can also expect a major open seat battle for the congressional seat.

April 12, 2019
Eighteen Democratic Presidential Candidates...and Counting
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • President: Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) announces run        
  • President: Washington moves up date
  • AL-Sen: Coach Tommy Tuberville (R) joins race
  • IL-13: close House race set for re-match
  • MI-6: Rep. Fred Upton (R) facing another tough campaign
  • WV-Gov: ex-Cabinet Secretary to file against Gov. Jim Justice (R)


Rep. Eric Swalwell:  After almost a year of indicating he would run for President, California Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin/Hayward) officially announced his intentions yesterday.  He now becomes the 18th Democratic presidential candidate.  The total does not include former Vice President Joe Biden, ex-Virginia Governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, nor Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) or Montana Gov. Steve Bullock. Should all enter, as expected, the total candidate list will swell to 22.

Washington:  The Washington Democrats, at their state party meeting last weekend, decided to convert their caucus nomination system into a primary.  Earlier, the legislature and Governor took action to move the nomination event date from late in the cycle to March 10, 2020. Washington moving means that 69% of the first ballot delegate votes will likely be locked into place at the close of the primaries and caucuses to be held on March 17, 2020.


Alabama:Tommy Tuberville (R), the former head football coach of Alabama's Auburn University, announced over the weekend that he will seek the Republican US Senate nomination.  Already in the race is Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile).  Others, such as Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and even possibly 2017 special election nominee Roy Moore (R), the former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, are also reportedly considering running.

The eventual Republican nominee then challenges Sen. Doug Jones (D), who is filling former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) unexpired term after winning the 2017 special election.  This race is going to be the top Republican conversion target next year, and very likely a must-win campaign for the GOP to maintain their Senate majority.

Georgia:  While still awaiting whether former gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams (D) will announce for the Senate, ex-Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson (D) formed a US Senate exploratory committee at the end of last week.  Ms. Tomlinson maintains that she will yield to Ms. Abrams if the latter woman decides to run - Abrams indicated she will make a decision at some point this month - but appears to be readying an effort to challenge Sen. David Perdue (D) if the former statewide nominee decides to go in another political direction.

New Hampshire:  The 1st quarter financial disclosure reports are due at the beginning of next week, and already many of the office holders and candidates are releasing their numbers.  Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) did so, and her totals were surprising.  Potentially facing a tough re-election fight with Gov. Chris Sununu (R), Sen. Shaheen has finally kicked her fundraising operation into gear.  In the first quarter, the campaign obtained over $1.4 million, but her closing cash-on-hand figure was a surprisingly low $1.5 million.

New Mexico:  Freshman Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque), who flirted with the idea of running for the state's newly open US Senate seat, announced yesterday that she will seek re-election to the US House position she won last November.  At this point, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) clearly has the inside track to the Democratic nomination and will be favored in the general election, but another Democrat, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, is a potential candidate. Republicans have yet to see a major candidate come forward. Sen. Tom Udall (D) is retiring.

West Virginia:  Little so far has been said about first-term Sen. Shelley Moore Capito's (R) re-election bid.  At this point, nary a Republican nor Democrat has indicated an interest in running.  Therefore, it was of little surprise when Sen. Capito announced that she will run for re-election.  With most of the political attention on the Governor's race, and with President Trump on the ballot in his second strongest state, Sen. Capito looks to be a lock to secure a second term.


AZ-1:  Late last year former Flagstaff City Councilmember Eva Putzova announced her Democratic primary challenge to two-term Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Sedona).  Though early in the cycle, her campaign appears to be experiencing a weak beginning.  Ms. Putzova's first quarter filing is reported to show only $31,000 raised with just $20,000 cash-on-hand.

CA-25:  Earlier this week, Lancaster City Councilmember Angela Underwood-Jacobs (R) indicated that she will be announcing her congressional challenge to freshman Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale).  Ms. Underwood-Jacobs will already become the fourth Republican to declare their candidacy.  She joins defense contractor Mike Garcia, non-profit organization executive Suzette Valladares, and GOP activist Charles Patron.

IL-13:  The Land of Lincoln's 13th District, a seat that includes the Capital City of Springfield and President Lincoln's home for many years, hosted one of the closest congressional campaigns in the country last year.  In November, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) outlasted challenger Betsy Dirksen Londrigan by just 2,058 votes, or a 50.4 - 49.6% split.  This week, Ms. Londrigan announced that she will return for a re-match.  It is likely she will have little to no competition in the Democratic primary, and the general election could again become close.  We can count on another competitive campaign here next year, though Rep. Davis may be in a stronger position in the presidential year.

MI-6:  While 2018 Democratic nominee Matt Longjohn, who held veteran Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) to a 50-46% re-election victory, continues to say he is considering seeking a re-match with the Congressman, a new Democratic contender has stepped forward.  Two-term state Rep. Joe Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) announced his candidacy for the party nomination. Therefore, we will likely see a significant August 2020 Democratic primary here before the winner has a chance to directly challenge Mr. Upton.

MT-AL:  Late this week, former state Rep. Kathleen Williams (D), who held at-large Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) to a 51-46% re-election victory, announced that she will seek a rematch next year. Ms. Williams doesn't have the Democratic primary to herself, however. State Rep. Tom Winter (D-Missoula) has already announced his candidacy.  There are political rumors that Mr. Gianforte may run for Governor - he was the GOP nominee in 2016 - but the Congressman is providing no confirmation that he will be jumping into the open statewide race.

NJ-2:  New Jersey's coastal 2nd District, anchored in the Atlantic City region, had been in Republican hands for 24 years in the person of Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-Ventnor) until last year.  The Congressman's retirement led to Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew having a relatively easy run to replace Mr. LoBiondo, though his victory margin against weak Republican nominee Seth Grossman was lower than expected: 53-45%.

This year, the competition already appears stronger. Venture capitalist David Richter (R) announced his congressional candidacy late this week in a seat that President Trump carried, 51-46%.  With Mr. Trump again on the 2020 ballot, this race could become much more competitive than last year.

NJ-7:  State Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. (R-Westfield), whose father served two terms as Governor in the 1980s, will reportedly announce his congressional challenge to freshman US Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-Rocky Hill/Short Hills) on April 16th.  Mr. Kean, who has lost past races for both the US Senate and House, has been in the state Senate since 2003, and in leadership beginning in 2008.

NM-2:  Chris Mathys, who lost the GOP nomination for a district position on the New Mexico Regulation Commission by a mere 25 votes last June, is returning to run for a higher office. This week, Mr. Mathys announced that he will compete for the GOP nomination to face freshman Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-Las Cruces) in a general election campaign that will be competitive.  But first, Mr. Mathys will have to deny former state Rep. Yvette Harrell (R) re-nomination.  In November, she held then-candidate Torres Small to a tight 51-49% victory margin.

NY-1:  On Friday, 2018 Democratic nominee Perry Gershon, who lost to three-term Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) 51-47%, said he will wage another campaign effort next year.  At this point, Mr. Gershon has the Democratic field to himself, but such can certainly change.  The 1st District is fully contained within Suffolk County on Long Island and houses all of the easternmost territory including the Hamptons to the Atlantic shore.

NY-18:  Chele Farley was the Republican Senatorial nominee against incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand (D) last fall, losing by a landslide 65-32%.  Now, Ms. Farley has announced that she is returning to launch another political campaign, but this time for the US House.  Farley only raised $1.4 million for her race against Sen. Gillibrand, but that amount would be a very credible financial starting point against Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring/Peekskill). Though Ms. Farley was blown out, as most Republicans are at the statewide level, she could become a viable congressional candidate.

OR-5: Milwaukie (OR) Mayor and National Geographic magazine photographer Mark Gamba filed a Federal Election Commission committee this week, the first official step toward launching a Democratic primary challenge campaign to six-term veteran Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby/Salem).  If Mr. Gamba can raise substantial resources, the race could become viable.  Rep. Schrader tends to be more moderate than his electorate, which could open the door to stiff competition especially in context with the concurrent presidential campaign atmospherics.

TX-7: Earlier this week, Cathy Siegel (R), who serves on the Metro Transit Authority of Houston, filed Federal Election Commission papers to open a congressional committee for Harris County's 7th District.  When freshman Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-Houston) upset nine-term incumbent Rep. John Culberson (R) in November, she became the first Democrat to represent the seat since 1968 when George Herbert Walker Bush first converted it to the Republican column.

Last week, at the reported behest of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Iraq War veteran Wesley Hunt (R) entered the race so it appears this Houston area district will host an early March Republican primary.  Expect this district to be a major Republican conversion target next year.


West Virginia:  When Gov. Jim Justice (R) appointed businessman Woody Thrasher to be his Commerce Department Secretary, he didn't figure that a member of his Cabinet would return to oppose him in the 2020 election.  But this is about to happen.  Next week, Mr. Thrasher is expected to announce his Republican primary gubernatorial challenge to Gov. Justice.

In 2016, Mr. Justice was elected as a Democrat, but then changed parties less than a year into his Governorship.  Therefore, as he seeks re-election, this will be the first time he appears before an exclusively non-Democratic electorate.  Mr. Thrasher's entry in the race will make this primary, a contest that also features former state Delegate Mike Folk (R), a campaign to watch.  The Governor's race is expected to dominate West Virginia politics in next year's election.

April 5, 2019
New House Members Facing Early Challengers
by Jim Ellis

Key Takeaways:

  • Sen. Michael Bennet: cancer treatment may prevent run for President
  • Rep. Tim Ryan (D): running for President
  • NM-Sen: Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D) announces Senate campaign
  • House: several new House incumbents draw early opposition
  • NH-Gov: Dem nominee Molly Kelly likely to return
  • UT-Gov: Ex-Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) may re-enter Gov Race


Sen. Michael Bennet:  Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) did make an announcement regarding his impending presidential campaign late this week, but the message was surprising. Though the Senator is not yet ruling himself out of entering the national campaign, he explained that he is battling prostate cancer and will soon undergo treatment.  At the end of the medical process, Sen. Bennet says he may still be able to enter the presidential contest if the long-term prognosis remains strong.

Rep. Tim Ryan:  Youngstown, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan announced his presidential effort yesterday as predicted, calling himself a progressive who supports free enterprise.  He also says his campaign will be able to reach many of the rural and working-class voters with whom Mr. Ryan claims his party has stopped communicating.

Joining the presidential contest may not immediately end his congressional career, however. Under Ohio election law, individuals can appear simultaneously on the ballot for more than one political office.  Therefore, Rep. Ryan says, in addition to filing to compete in the Ohio Democratic presidential primary, currently scheduled for March 10, 2020, he will also re-file for his seat in the House of Representatives.

The Money Count:  According to the Federal Election Commission, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) led all fundraising during the first part of 2019 with $18.2 million in receipts.  Sen. Kamala Harris' (D-CA) campaign spokespeople are saying that their candidate will report over $12 million in funds raised.  South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg says his campaign has raised over $7 million, an impressive total from a previously unknown candidate.  Most of the contributions to all of the candidates were small dollar and came in the form of online donations.


Kansas:  State Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), who has already confirmed that she is a likely open seat US Senate candidate, took a step this week to suggest she will soon enter the statewide campaign.  Sen. Wagle announced that she will not run for the legislature in 2020 and promises a further political declaration after the legislative session ends in May.

The Republican field has been frozen waiting for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make a decision about running.  Though he has made several public statements indicating that he will not be a Senate candidate, speculation among local and national politicos suggests something different.

New Mexico:  Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) announced his run for the state's newly open Senate race early in the week. Mr. Lujan becomes the first major candidate of either party to announce his candidacy after Sen. Tom Udall (D) made his retirement intentions public.  Other Democrats, including Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and freshman Rep. Deb Haaland (D-Albuquerque) are also potential candidates.

The Republican side has been relatively quiet, but former Gov. Susana Martinez and ex-Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry would certainly be formidable statewide candidates, as would former Congressman Steve Pearce who is currently the New Mexico Republican Party chairman.  Democrats will be favored to hold the seat, but the contest could potentially turn competitive.

Texas:  The latest political talk from Texas suggests that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) will soon announce a challenge to Sen. John Cornyn (R) and quickly become a consensus Democratic candidate.  But such may not be the case. M.J. Hegar (D), a retired Army helicopter pilot who held veteran Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) to a 51-48% re-election victory, confirmed that she is still looking closely at running for the Senate and indicates Rep. Castro's candidate status will not influence her decision to run.

If both enter the race, it will cause a significant Democratic primary battle that purports to conclude on the same day as the Texas presidential primary: likely March 3, 2020.


AZ-6:  Dr. Hiral Tipirneni (D), who twice ran for Congress during the last election cycle in Arizona's 8th District - once in the special election; once in the regular vote - announced that she is returning to the campaign trail but, this time, in a different venue.  Dr. Tipirneni, who recorded just under 48% of the vote in the special and fell under 45% in the regular general against Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria), is now setting her sights on Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills) in the adjoining 6th District.  The 6th, known as a Republican stronghold, is beginning to show trends of becoming more politically marginal.  President Trump carried the seat 52-42% in 2016, but that was down substantially from Mitt Romney's 59-39% margin in 2012.

CA-45:  Yorba Linda City Councilwoman Peggy Huang (R) declared her congressional candidacy in the 45th District, but not for the district where most believed she would run. Because Yorba Linda lies wholly within the 39th Congressional District that freshman Rep. Gil Cisneros (D-Yorba Linda) represents, it was presumed that Ms. Huang would run there.  This is not the case, as she has now filed her committee for the neighboring Orange County 45th District of freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine).  In November, Ms. Porter unseated Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine).

CA-48:  Former state Senator Janet Nguyen (R), another California Republican casualty in 2018, is reportedly looking to challenge freshman Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach).  Ms. Nguyen lost her legislative seat by just under 3,000 votes but managed to carry the Orange County portion by two votes.  With the 48th being fully contained within OC, the district configuration should be more to her political advantage.  This will likely be a campaign worth watching.

FL-26:  With former 26th District Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R) looking more toward the open Miami-Dade County Mayor's contest, Republicans are searching for a candidate to oppose freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami).  Yesterday, restaurant owner and national Trump supporter Irina Vilarino (R) has come forward to initiate her candidacy.

The 26th District was drawn to elect a Democrat, which it did in 2018.  Therefore, Ms. Vilarino, or any other Republican candidate will have a difficult time unseating Rep. Mucarsel-Powell. The party leadership believes it must contest the seat in the new incumbent's first re-election, however, before it is re-drawn as an even more Democratic district in 2021 should the Dems gain enough legislative power to implement such a move.

GA-7:  This week, state Rep. Pete Marin (D-Duluth) indicated that he will not run for Congress next year.  The development is a major plus for 2018 Democratic nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux, who held retiring incumbent Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) to a 419-vote victory.  Several other Democrats are still considering running, however, including state Reps. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) and Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross).

MT-AL:  Coming from a 51-46% re-election victory, Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) may see a Democratic primary forming to challenge him in 2020. Early in the week, state Rep. Tom Winter (D-Missoula) declared his congressional candidacy.  Former state Rep. Kathleen Williams, the 2018 Democratic nominee, has not yet declared but said she is considering seeking a re-match.

NY-11:  In the past few days, former Rep. Dan Donovan (R-Staten Island) confirmed that he will not be seeking a re-match with freshman Rep. Max Rose (D-Staten Island) after the 2018 election resulted in the former's defeat, 52-46%.  But, ex-Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), who completed a seven-month term in prison after a tax evasion conviction and then lost soundly to Mr. Donovan in last year's Republican primary, is again sounding like a candidate.

Republican Party leaders have another idea, however. State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R) has already announced her candidacy and is clearly favored over Mr. Grimm.   Expect this seat, the only New York City district that has a Republican history, to be a major target in 2020.

NY-15:  Last week, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-Bronx) announced that he would not be seeking re-election after what will be almost 30 years in the House once this congressional session concludes.  Before the Congressman's announcement, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres (D) had already announced his candidacy.  Now, Elias Alcantara, a former Obama Administration official, is rumored to be considering entering the congressional contest.  This is the safest of Democratic seats, so the succession battle will be settled in the party primary.

NC-2:  Four-term Rep. George Holding (R-Raleigh) defended himself against a serious challenge from ex-state Rep. Linda Coleman (D) in November, winning 51-46%.  He may now be looking at a new opponent for 2020.  This week, Marine Corps retired Lt. Col. Scott Cooper (D) publicly indicated that he will enter the Democratic primary for the right to challenge Mr. Holding in November of 2020.  It is likely we will see others coming forward to run, as well, but at this point it does not appear that Ms. Coleman is making any moves to force a re-match.

NM-3:  Now that Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-Nambe/Santa Fe) has announced that he will run for the Senate, Democratic candidates for the open 3rd District House seat are coming forward. Freshman state Rep. Joe Sanchez (D-Alcalde) is the only elected official who has entered the race, but others are soon expected.  Businessman and former state legislative candidate Mark McDonald is now in the race, as is 2018 state Representative candidate Cameron Chick, Sr.

Republicans are not expected to make a major push in this northern New Mexico district considering its long history as a Democratic stronghold.

SC-2:  Ten-term House incumbent Joe Wilson (R-Springdale/Columbia) has had little trouble winning re-election in his Columbia/Lexington County anchored district, but he has already drawn an opponent for next year's general election.  This week, Adair Boroughs, the Executive Director of Charleston Legal Aide an affiliated group of the South Carolina Legal Services Corporation, announced that she will challenge the Congressman.  Rep. Wilson remains a heavy favorite to win again in 2020, but Ms. Boroughs likely has fundraising capability that could cause the Congressman to spend advertising money.

TX-7:  House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been actively recruiting to find a strong Republican challenger to a new Democratic incumbent in the converted Texas 7th District.  This week, he succeeded in getting his candidate of choice.

Iraq War veteran helicopter pilot Wesley Hunt (R) said that he will run for Congress next year, attempting to deny freshman Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (R-Houston) re-election and return what was a reliable Republican congressional seat to the GOP column.  Regardless if Mr. Hunt becomes the nominee, we can expect the national GOP to bombard this district, which performed as a 60-39% Mitt Romney CD but one that Donald Trump dropped by a percentage point four years later.


New Hampshire:  Molly Kelly, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee who held Gov. Chris Sununu (R) to a 53-46% re-election victory, is reportedly looking to run again.  Ms. Kelly made a statement indicating that she is considering declaring her candidacy for 2020.  Again, seeking the Governor's office makes even more sense should Mr. Sununu decide to challenge Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D).  In any event, all the New Hampshire races figure to be close in a state that has swung more wildly between the two parties than any other American domain since the turn of the century.

Utah:  Jon Huntsman, the former Utah Governor, presidential candidate, and US Ambassador to China in the Obama Administration, is reportedly contemplating entering the open 2020 race for Governor.  Currently, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R), though also unannounced, appears to be the leading candidate.  Already, outgoing Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has headlined fundraisers the supporting Lt. Governor.