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.


April 26, 2017
Corker for TN Governor? Alabama Senate race moves to 2017  
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Action is beginning to stir in the new Alabama special US Senate election, and it is a virtual certainty that appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) will face a large Republican primary field in the August 15th intra-party contest. 

So far, in addition to Sen. Strange, state Rep. Ed Henry, the man who first led the impeachment effort against fellow Republican and now resigned Gov. Robert Bentley, former state Rep. Perry Hooper, who was President Trump's Alabama campaign co-chairman, and Alabama Christian Coalition president Randy Brinson have announced their candidacies.  Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore scheduled to make an announcement later today.  It is possible that as many as three members of the congressional delegation will also become Senate candidates.  The filing deadline is May 17th.

If no one receives a majority on August 15th, the top two finishers will advance to a September 26th run-off election.  The special general election is scheduled for December 12th.  So far, little action is occurring on the Democratic side.  The ultimate winner serves the balance of former Sen. Jeff Sessions' term (now US Attorney General) that will end after the 2020 election.

House

California Democrats have decided to make a play against House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Tulare/Fresno County).  Yesterday, Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Janz (D) announced that he will enter the Central Valley congressional race next year.  It's going to be a tough road to unseat Rep. Nunes because the 22nd District is safely Republican (Trump '16: 52.1%; Romney '12: 56.6%).  Mr. Nunes was first elected in 2002, and has averaged 72.5% of the vote over his eight terms in the House.

Very little in the way of polling data has come from the at-large Montana special election, but that changed yesterday.  The Emerson College Polling Society (4/20-21; 648 MT-AL likely voters) finds Republican businessman Greg Gianforte jumping out to a strong lead over country rock singer Rob Quist (D).  Mr. Gianforte, the former Republican gubernatorial nominee who lost to incumbent Steve Bullock (D) 50-46% last November, has a substantial 52-37% advantage over the first-time Democratic candidate.  This will be another expensive campaign, as both candidates have raised well over $1.5 million for the election to be decided May 25th.

Turning south, the candidates are making their final push before the May 2nd primary election for the South Carolina congressional special vote.  The two front-runners appear to be former state Representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman (R) and state House President Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R).  Both have the most in the way of campaign resources, and each is advertising heavily.  Former Wall Street executive and congressional aide Archie Parnell appears to be a Democratic candidate who may well win the nomination outright.  The Republicans will likely advance to a May 16th run-off. 

The South Carolina special general election is scheduled for June 20th.  Republicans are heavily favored to hold the seat, left vacant when former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) was appointed Director of the Office of Management & Budget.

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) announced that he will not seek re-election to a sixth term in 2018, and will likely leave Congress before the end of the current session.  This will create a vacancy in the congressional delegation for the first time since 1930.  Ambiguity surrounds the state's special election process, so this situation will continue to attract political attention as the details unfold.  The 3rd District is safely Republican - in fact, Hillary Clinton actually placed third here - so the eventual outcome will not affect the overall House political division.

Governor 

As expected with Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ascending to the Governorship after incumbent Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville (R) closed his exploratory committee and will not enter the Governor's race this year.  He likely would have run if the position had remained open.

A major Democratic primary is potentially brewing for the open Colorado Governor's office potentially between two sitting US House members.  Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) is already in the Governor's race, and this week his congressional colleague, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder), said he is seriously considering entering the statewide contest.  Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is the most prominent Republican to have declared his candidacy.  Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

The Democrats may not have seen the end of former U.S. Representative, state Senator, and Cleveland Mayor Dennis Kucinich.  The politician is now reportedly laying the groundwork to enter the open Governor's race next year.  While not wanting to "discuss politics" during his public appearances, Kucinich is increasing his travel around the state and may well soon officially enter the contest.  Mr. Kucinich, currently a Fox News contributor, was last on the ballot in 2012 when he was paired in the Democratic primary with veteran Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), in a race he would eventually lose, 56-40%.  Kucinich would join former Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley), state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, who just resigned as the body's Minority Leader, and ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich in the Democratic primary.  Kucinich's chances of capturing the nomination are poor, but the race will become more interesting with him as a candidate.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) again failed to shut down rumors that he may eschew running for re-election and instead enter the open Governor's campaign.  In an interview last week, Sen. Corker confirmed that he has not made a decision about 2018 yet, and is considering the Governor's race.  Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.  House Budget Committee chair Diane Black (R-Gallatin) is also reportedly interested in a potential run for Governor.


April 19, 2017
Alabama Senate Seat Moves to 2017 and GA 6th Hits a Runoff   
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

New Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) issued an order changing the US Senate special election cycle.  While resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R) scheduled the special concurrently with the 2018 regular election, voters will now go to the polls in a three-tiered system in August, September, and December.  With a lawsuit pending against Bentley's action, Gov. Ivey superseded the complaint in producing a new election schedule. 

The special primary is now scheduled for August 15th, with any necessary run-off occurring on September 26th.  The special general is now December 12th.  Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) is expected to run for the seat, and he can expect robust competition.  In a benefit to the congressional delegation, members can now enter the special election without risking their current congressional position.  This being the case, veteran Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) could well become one of the new candidates. 

The winner will serve the remainder of the current term, which ends in 2021.  Former Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R) appointment and confirmation as US Attorney General led to the vacancy.  Sen. Strange will serve until at least the special election concludes, and the remainder of the term should he win the electoral contest.

Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) raising over $675,000 in the first quarter of 2017, and banking over $2.8 million suggests that she is seriously looking to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake (R).  Though Ms. Sinema has been quiet about her potential political future, her fundraising is speaking volumes.

Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) is another House member who has greatly increased his fundraising.  At the end of the first quarter, Rep. Tiberi has more than $6 million cash-on-hand, thus increasing speculation that he will enter the race to oppose Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).

House

The GA-6 special election was held last night, and with technical difficulties occurring in Fulton County, the largest in the district, the laborious count yielded a run-off between Democrat Jon Ossoff and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R). 

Ossoff began with a major early lead, tallying 71% of the vote in the first released count, all from DeKalb County.  His advantage naturally came down with every report, but still ended with 48.1%, which was stronger than expected.  Mr. Ossoff now faces Ms. Handel in the secondary run-off election that will be decided on June 20th. 

Despite what appeared to be flawed methodology in many of the released polls for this special election race, the predictions proved accurate.  Opinion Savvy, the polling group who were the only ones to test the entire 18-candidate ballot, came very close in their prediction.  While everyone foresaw an Ossoff first place finish by a wide margin, OS was the only pollster who projected Handel finishing second by a comfortable margin.  All other surveys saw a tight bunching among the four most competitive Republican candidates for the second run-off position.

Democrats will be pleased with this outcome since Handel has demonstrated weakness in her last few elections.  In the 2010 race for Governor, she placed first in the primary, but lost the run-off to current Gov. Deal.  In 2014, she came back to run for the Senate, but failed to even qualify for the run-off, as future Sen. David Purdue and then-Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) advanced to the secondary election.  Now, she barely reaches 20% in a jungle primary in her home congressional district.

Governor 

A series of candidates from both parties are lining up for a crack at succeeding retiring Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D).  The week's biggest news surrounds the decision of two potentially serious candidates, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo (D) and former West Hartford Mayor Jonathan Harris (D), who both said they would defer to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D) if she decides to enter the gubernatorial race.  So far, Ms. Wyman has been noncommittal about becoming a candidate.  The eventual Democratic nominee will be a heavy favorite to retain the seat for the party even though Gov. Malloy could only manage close election victories in the past two contests.

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee and scheduled an announcement event for April 30th.  Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Maryland three-term US Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) says that he is "absolutely considering" challenging popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan next year.  Mr. Hogan enjoys the second-best job approval score in the country according to the Morning Consult national survey that monitors Governors' job performance.  Maryland, being one of the strongest Democratic states in the country suggests that the 2018 campaign will remain highly competitive irrespective of Gov. Hogan's strong performance record.


April 12, 2017
2018 Governor's Races in the Spotlight and House Special Elections Underway 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Key Missouri former elected officials, including ex-US Senator John Danforth (R) and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R), signed an open letter to Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) encouraging him to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year.  So far, the newly elected AG is saying he will not run, but his latest statement about remaining in his current position is a bit weaker than what he previously professed.  Meanwhile, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) appears to be actively gearing up to soon announce for the Senate.  She has reportedly raised $804,000 for the first quarter of 2017, and has more than $2.8 million in her federal campaign account.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who faces a competitive re-election battle in 2018, drew his first official opponent this week.  State Sen. Albert Olszewski (R-Kalispell) announced that he will compete for the Republican nomination for the state's in-cycle US Senate seat.  Sen. Olszewski was elected in 2016, after serving one term in the state House of Representatives.  He will not have to risk his Senate seat to run statewide in 2018.

Erie area Rep. Mike Kelly (R) confirms that he is considering launching a challenge against Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D).  Two Republican state Representatives, Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny County) and Jim Christiana (R-Beaver County), are announced US Senate candidates, but Rep. Kelly would be able to bring strong financial resources to the campaign.  Mr. Kelly also says he is looking at the Governor's race, but it appears that launching a Senate campaign is more likely.  

House

Kansas state Treasurer Ron Estes (R) won the special election to succeed CIA Director Mike Pompeo in the Wichita-anchored congressional district.  Mr. Estes completed his 53-46% victory on April 11th, which Democrats and media pundits say is a Republican under-performance.  Though this number is below President Trump's strong 60-33% showing last November, the Estes result is relatively in line with other Republicans when they first won the seat.  Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Wichita) scored a 53% win in 1994 when he initially came to Congress, and Mr. Pompeo's original vote percentage was 59% when he won for the first time in 2010.

Turnout was strong for a special election.  More than 120,000 voters participated in the election, some 30% of the registered voters total.  In comparison, only 28,000 individuals voted in the April 4th California 34 special election held in Los Angeles. 

The House partisan division is now 238R-193D, with four vacancies remaining to be filled.  The next special election occurs on Tuesday in Georgia.  There, Democrat Jon Ossoff is expected to finish first, and advance to a June 20th run-off election with a Republican candidate.  Several Republicans still have a chance to qualify for the next vote. 

Now that the first special election has concluded, another may soon be on the horizon. Keystone State Rep. Tom Marino (R-Williamsport) is apparently on President Trump's short list to become the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the position commonly known as the "Drug Czar".  Should Mr. Marino be appointed, his northeastern Pennsylvania congressional district would be subject to yet another special election.

Governor 

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) finally acknowledged the extra-marital affair that has plagued his effectiveness for the better part of a year.  In order to avoid what appeared to be a sure impeachment vote, Gov. Bentley resigned his office, agreed never to run for political office again, and pled guilty to two campaign finance misdemeanors.  He will forfeit more than $36,000 in campaign funds to the state, and perform 100 hours of community service as part of the agreement. 

Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ascended to the Governorship, thus throwing state politics into chaos.  A number of statewide officials were looking to run for the open Governor's position - Bentley was ineligible to run for a third term - but most are now saying they will re-assess their own options once Gov. Ivey makes her future political plans known.  On the other hand, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan (R) says he still plans to run for Governor next year.

The open Colorado Governor's race is officially underway.  At the beginning of this week, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) announced, as expected, that he will enter the statewide contest next year.  He joins five other Democrats who have already declared, including former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy, and ex-state Sen. Mike Johnston.  The latter reports raising more than $650,000 for the race.  Republican District Attorney (Arapahoe County) George Brauchler is the most prominent candidate on the GOP side.  The Colorado contest will be highly competitive.  Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

President Trump has named Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green (R) as US Army Secretary.  Upon confirmation, Mr. Green, an announced Volunteer State gubernatorial candidate, will resign from the state Senate and withdraw from the Governor's race.  Gov. Bill Haslam (R) is term-limited, so this, too, will be a hotly contested open Governor's campaign.

Quinnipiac University released its latest Virginia Governor's poll (4/6-10; 1,115 VA registered voters; 483 self-identified Democrats; 435 self-identified Republicans) which provides good news for the Democrats, particularly former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville).  The poll does appear slightly skewed in the Democrats' favor, with a sample of 34% Democratic, 31% Independent, and 24% Republican, which is out of balance with the actual established voting trends in the most recent elections.

In terms of the ballot test results, Mr. Perriello leads Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, 25-20%, in their nomination battle.  The establishment-backed Northam, however, has scored major points on the fundraising circuit, obtaining $1.5 million in the quarter and holding a reported $3.3 million in his campaign account.

For the Republicans, ex-Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie appears secure with a lead over his two GOP primary opponents, Prince William County Board chairman Corey Stewart, and Virginia Beach state Sen. Frank Wagner. 

But, in the pairing with the Democrats, Gillespie now trails by double-digits to both Perriello and Northam.  The Lt. Governor maintains a 44-33% advantage over Gillespie, while Mr. Perriello an even larger 46-33% spread.  These are by far the worst numbers the Gillespie camp has seen in this election, and while the polling skew accounts for some of it, the spread is large enough to determine that the Democrats hold a clear edge as we pull to within two months of the June 13th primary, which will mark the official beginning of the 2017 general election campaign.


April 5, 2017
O'Rourke to Challenge Cruz and Special Elections are Underway 
by Jim Ellis  

Senate

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) announced at the end of last week that he will challenge Sen. Ted Cruz (R) next year.  Texas has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since Lloyd Bentsen was re-elected in 1988, and no party member has won a statewide race here since 1990.  President Trump carried Texas by nine percentage points last November.  Another obstacle in O'Rourke's way is that no one has ever won a Texas statewide office hailing from El Paso.  So, his challenge is a daunting one.

Still, the Congressman is a credible candidate who will be able to assemble a serious campaign.  Sen. Cruz will have some vulnerability because he spent most of his first term running for President and not expending his energy to fully represent the state.  Nevertheless, Sen. Cruz must be rated a clear favorite as this campaign begins.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) is another individual reported to be considering entering the Senate race.  In response to the expected O'Rourke announcement, Mr. Castro says he is still not ruling out running and will decide in several weeks.  In the end, it is likely that O'Rourke becomes the consensus Democratic candidate and Castro remains in the House.

House

On Tuesday, voters in Los Angeles went to the polls to decide the CA-34 special election to replace Rep. Xavier Becerra (D), who resigned from Congress to become California's Attorney General.  Turnout was extremely low, not even reaching 10% of the registered voters.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and former Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn will now advance to a double-Democratic special general election on June 6th.  Mr. Gomez is the Democratic establishment candidate while Mr. Ahn recently dropped over $300,000 of his own money into the race, bringing his receipts total to more than $630,000.  This is more than any candidate, including race favorite Gomez, and $100,000 more than the third-best fundraiser, former city council aide Sara Hernandez (D), who finished fourth. 

More polling is coming to the forefront in the suburban Atlanta special election (GA-6).  Both Lake Research and Survey USA released polls finding Democrat Jon Ossoff leading the pack of candidates with approximately 40% preference.  Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel is a distant second in all surveys, but there is disagreement among the pollsters about Handel's Republican opponents' strength.  Contrasting Lake's findings, S-USA poll projects that the Republicans are closely bunched.

In any event, Ossoff is well positioned to finish first in the jungle primary, but falls well short of securing an outright majority.  Run-off polling scenarios show a virtual tie between Mr. Ossoff and whichever Republican advances to the secondary electoral contest.

The Montana special election is beginning to take shape and it appears more competitive than originally first thought.  Democratic nominee Rob Quist, a country rock singer who is well known throughout the state, has already gathered more than $750,000 for the special election, released his first television spot, and is prepared to run a viable campaign.  Republican nominee Greg Gianforte has the ability to self-fund and is already airing two different ads, so he will be able to spend freely on the special election campaign just as he did for his close losing Governor's campaign last November.  Therefore, we can expect a more spirited campaign here prior to the May 25th election than originally thought.

Governor 

Two-term Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem) closed the door on a potential challenge to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.  In a rare tip of the political hat to bi-partisanship, Moulton referred to Gov. Baker as "a good man" who is "doing a pretty good job leading the state."

New Jersey candidate filing closed, and all candidates expecting to file did so.  The prohibitive Democratic and Republican favorites to capture the respective party nominations are former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy (D) and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R), respectively.  Comedian Joe Piscopo, who for a time was looking to run for Governor as a Republican, still can file as an Independent candidate.  Early last week, he announced that he would not enter the Republican primary.

Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders endorsed former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) for the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam opposes him.  Conversely, in a blow to upstart Perriello, the liberal Virginia Education Association endorsed the more establishment-oriented Northam, in addition to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), and Sens. Mark Warner (D) and Tim Kaine (D).  Still, this is not a typical Clinton vs. Sanders intra-party affair.  Clinton former campaign chairman John Podesta is on board with Perriello as is former President Barack Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe.


March 29, 2017
Mitt Romney for Senate? and VA Democrats Divided on Governor  
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Freshman Indiana Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City/Ft. Wayne) firmly closed the door on making a Senate run next year.  There was never any particular sign that Mr. Banks would so quickly enter a statewide campaign after just being elected to Congress this past November, but his statement this week will end any further speculation.

Conversely, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie), while still not declaring for the Senate, took a major step forward.  He formed a statewide finance committee that is certainly designed to support an impending Hoosier State US Senate campaign.  Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) is viewed as one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senators standing for re-election in 2018.

The Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) saga continues.  While saying two weeks ago that he is strongly considering running for an eighth term - Mr. Hatch is already the second longest-serving Senate Republican in American history - the veteran lawmaker said this week that he would step aside if he could be assured that "a really outstanding person would run for my position."  Mr. Hatch made his comments in a new interview with the Salt Lake City Tribune.  Such a person, Mr. Hatch continued, would be former presidential nominee Mitt Romney.  The latter, a former Massachusetts Governor, is now a resident of Utah.  This Senate race continues to develop.

House

With the CA-34 special election in downtown Los Angeles nearing its jungle primary date on April 4th, a new figure has burst on the scene.  Rising to the top of the resource chart among the 23 contenders to succeed Rep. Xavier Becerra (D), who resigned from the House to become California's Attorney General, is Los Angeles Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn (D).  Mr. Ahn recently dropped over $300,000 of his own money into the race, bringing his receipts total to more than $330,000.  This is more than any candidate, including race favorite Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D), and $100,000 more than the third-best fundraiser, former city council aide Sara Hernandez (D). 

If no candidate garners majority support in next week's election, the top two will advance to a special general election on June 6th.  It is likely that two Democrats will battle each other for the seat in the secondary contest. 

Following the April 4th vote, special election voters in southern Kansas will go to the polls on April 11th.  They will choose a successor to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Wichita), who resigned to become CIA Director.  The candidates are state Treasurer Ron Estes (R) and attorney James Thompson (D).  Mr. Estes is the favorite.  This will be the first of the five special congressional elections to complete its campaign cycle.

Governor 

Former Colorado US Senator and Obama Administration Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D) said he will not enter the open 2018 Governor's race in the Centennial State.  This likely opens the door for Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) to make the statewide bid.  Though Mr. Perlmutter is not yet confirming he will run for Governor, individuals close to him indicate that they are confident he will do so.  Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.  The Colorado race should be one of the more competitive open gubernatorial campaigns in the nation.  Republicans, to date, do not have a clear field of candidates.

Minnesota six-term US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) announced his candidacy for the open Governor's race earlier in the week, as expected.  Mr. Walz was barely re-elected to the House in November, scoring only a 50.3% victory percentage.  Still, he will be a formidable statewide Democratic primary candidate.  If successful in obtaining the nomination, he would become at least an early favorite to succeed term-limited Gov. Mark Dayton (D).

A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll (3/22-26; 758 NJ registered voters) finds former Ambassador Phil Murphy and New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno on the road to capturing their respective Democratic and Republican Party gubernatorial nominations.  Both enjoy leads of 20 points against opponents within their own party structure.  Mr. Murphy will be favored in the 2017 general election to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Christopher Newport University (3/16-26; 831 VA registered voters) again tested the Virginia gubernatorial primary situation.  While former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie owns a comfortable 38-11-10% advantage over local county Supervisor Corey Stewart and state Sen. Frank Wagner, respectively among sampled likely GOP primary voters, the Democratic primary is a much different story.

According to the CNU data, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former US Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) are deadlocked in a 26-26% contest that looks to be dividing along the same ideological lines upon which Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders decided the 2016 presidential nomination.  As the candidates become better known, we can expect this division to deepen.  The Democratic establishment is lining up behind Northam, while the liberal Sanders' outsiders are backing Perriello.


March 22, 2017
Nelson leads Scott In FL Polls and GA 6th Has a Clear Favorite in Ossoff   
by Jim Ellis

Senate

The election cycle's third public poll of Florida's 2018 US Senate race reached the public domain this week and Cherry Communications (CC), polling for the state Chamber of Commerce (3/6-14; 600 FL registered voters), already finds results consistent with the previously conducted surveys.  According to the CC study, the polling respondents would favor Sen. Bill Nelson (D) over Gov. Rick Scott (R) by a 48-42% margin.  The other polls, from the University of North Florida and Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, found 44-38 and 46-41% spreads, respectively. 

Sen. Nelson says he will seek a fourth term next year.  Gov. Scott, ineligible to run for a third term, has openly speculated about challenging the incumbent Democratic Senator.  These consistent polling results suggest yet another close Sunshine State political campaign.

House

Clout Research is out with their second, and much improved, survey of the GA-6 special election campaign.  This poll (3/15-16; 625 GA-6 respondents; 589 likely special election voters) finds Democratic investigative filmmaker and ex-congressional aide Jon Ossoff opening up a lead over the large field of candidates.  According to the data, Mr. Ossoff commands 41% support, followed by former Secretary of State Karen Handel and businessman Bob Gray who are tied at 16%. 

The poll is better than the organization's first effort because the survey masters included more than one Democratic option response.  There are five Democrats on the ballot, but Clout only listed Ossoff in their first poll.  This time they added former state Sen. Ron Slotin.  Six Republicans were listed, of the eleven who will be on the ballot.  Combined, the aggregate GOP total is still higher than the similar Democratic tally, 48-44%.  The jungle primary vote is April 18th.  If no candidate commands an absolute majority, which is almost a certainty, the top two will advance to a June 20th special general election vote.

Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs/Chicago suburbs) first elected in 2004 to succeed his father, Rep. Bill Lipinski who served 22 years in the House, could face a Democratic primary challenge in 2018.  Marketing consultant Marie Newman has filed a congressional exploratory committee to test whether she could amass enough liberal support to deny re-nomination to one of the more moderate Democratic members of the House.  Mr. Lipinski last faced primary opposition in 2008, a race he won by almost 20 percentage points.

Brian McClendon, who recently resigned as a top Vice President in the Uber corporation, says he will be returning to Kansas and may well launch a political venture.  He intimates soon announcing a congressional candidacy for the open 2nd District.  Incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) has already announced that she will retire after the current term.

Former Nevada US Senate and congressional candidate Sharron Angle (R), who lost a close race to Sen. Harry Reid (D) in 2010 while carrying the Tea Party banner, is now challenging four-term Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City).  Ms. Angle announced the intra-party challenge earlier in the week.  A former state Representative, she continues to lose support in every subsequent race.  Though a well-known candidate, Ms. Angle will not likely prove a credible primary challenger to Rep. Amodei.  The Congressman will be heavily favored for re-nomination.

Governor 

Florida ex-US Representative Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) will reportedly soon announce for Governor.  First elected in 2014, Ms. Graham became a victim of the 2015 court-ordered redistricting and was left with nowhere to run in 2016.  She will return after a brief hiatus from active politics, due to her husband's battle against prostate cancer.  With his recovery well underway, it is possible we will see an announcement from her within the next week.  Ms. Graham is the daughter of former Governor and US Senator Bob Graham, and will join Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and businessman Chris King in the Democratic gubernatorial field. Gov. Rick Scott (R) is term-limited, so the open Florida Governor's race will become one of the most important national campaigns in 2018.

It is becoming clear in Minnesota that six-term US Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) will announce his candidacy for the open Governor's race in short order.  Mr. Walz was barely re-elected to the House in November, scoring only a 50.3% victory percentage.  Still, he will be a formidable statewide Democratic primary candidate.  If successful in obtaining the nomination, he would become the favorite to succeed term-limited Gov. Mark Dayton (D).

A new Quinnipiac University New Jersey survey (3/9-13; 1,098 NJ registered voters) finds Democratic former US Ambassador to Germany Phil Murphy opening up a substantial lead over Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) in this year's open gubernatorial contest.  Mr. Murphy scores a 47-25% margin when paired against the state's sitting Lt. Governor.  Ms. Guadagno is likely falling victim to Gov. Chris Christie's (R) poor job approval ratings.  According to this Q-Poll, his job performance stands at 19:76% favorable to unfavorable.  In the Republican primary poll (315 tested Republicans), Guadagno leads comedian Joe Piscopo, 28-18%.  For the Democrats (450 sampled Democrats), Mr. Murphy begins in a commanding position with 23% in comparison to his four opponents, none of whom can even top 6 percent.


March 15, 2017
Texas Redistricting and Hatch to Seek Re-election 
by Jim Ellis

Redistricting

A special federal three-judge panel in San Antonio late last week declared three Texas congressional districts as unconstitutional.  The seats of Reps. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), and Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) are ordered re-drawn as part of a remedy from a decision that was originally rendered back in 2011.  The court further stated that Rep. Michael Burgess' (R-Denton County) 26th District also packed Hispanic voters, but this seat was not ordered re-drawn. 

The final re-map will end a very long challenge process.  The state can appeal the ruling, and may do so to the US Supreme Court.  When Trump judicial nominee Neil Gorsuch assumes his position on the high court a conservative advantage will be restored, but that does not necessarily mean that the lower court decision will be overturned.  Once the judiciary finally acts, the map returns to the Texas legislature for a re-draw.

Senate

The longest-serving Republican Senator in American history, Utah's Orrin Hatch, says he "plans to" seek an eighth term in 2018.  His official press statement was a bit less firm, but it appears the Senator will again be on the ballot.  He was first elected to the Senate in 1976; on the same night that Jimmy Carter won the Presidency.  During the 2012 campaign, Sen. Hatch indicated on several occasions that he would retire at the end of the current term.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is apparently considering whether to run for the Senate next year.  It is presumed that Mr. Schwarzenegger may enter the race but only if incumbent Dianne Feinstein (D) decides to retire.  At 83 years of age, Sen. Feinstein is the body's most elderly member but says she may well seek re-election. 

Speculation that the former Republican Governor could run as an Independent is not without basis.  His open feud with President Trump might make it difficult for the Republican Party apparatus to fully support Schwarzenegger, and he would be better positioned before the heavily Democratic California electorate.  Under California's nomination election law, all candidates are placed on the same primary ballot and the top two advance to the general election.  Therefore, it would matter little if Schwarzenegger were listed as a Republican or an Independent.  He would be favored to make the general election in either scenario.

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who came within a whisker of toppling Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary, confirms he is considering challenging Sen. Roger Wicker (R) next year.  Mr. McDaniel had talked about launching a primary campaign against Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Biloxi) in 2016, but did not move forward.  He said he is disappointed at Wicker and the entire Mississippi congressional delegation's passivity at failing to "champion conservative reform in D.C."

House

Former Nebraska Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), who lost his seat in November after one term to current Rep. Don Bacon (R-Papillion), said he will not seek a re-match next year.  On the other hand, his wife, Ann Ferlic Ashford, may run.  The 2nd District's marginal nature makes any challenge competitive, so this district almost always features close campaigns.

Candidate filing closed in the South Carolina special election to replace Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.  Seven Republicans, three Democrats, and five Independents filed at the deadline.  The partisan primaries are scheduled for May 2nd, with run-offs, if necessary, for May 16th.  The special general will be held June 20th.  Republicans are favored to hold the seat.  The leading GOP candidates appear to be state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, state Representative and former congressional nominee Ralph Norman, and ex-South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly. 

South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs (R) announced her intention to run for the state's open at-large congressional seat.  She joins former Public Utilities Commissioner Dusty Johnson in the Republican primary.  The seat is open because incumbent Rep. Kristi Noem (R-Castlewood) is running for Governor.

Governor 

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D), saying that the task of raising millions of dollars to compete in a Florida statewide contest is too daunting, announced that he will not run for Governor next year.  Incumbent Rick Scott (R), who may run for Senate, is ineligible to seek a third term.

Harry Wilson, the Republican New York state Comptroller candidate who lost only 51-46% in 2010, is moving closer to entering the Governor's race next year.  Incumbent Andrew Cuomo (D) is looking toward running for a third term, and will be the heavy favorite. 

In Ohio, former state Rep. Connie Pillich, who was the Democratic nominee for state Treasurer in 2014 (lost 57-43% to Republican Josh Mandel), entered the Governor's race this week.  She will be battling, so far, former US Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley), and state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni in the Democratic primary.  For the Republicans, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Attorney General and former US Senator Mike DeWine, and Secretary of State Jon Husted are all in the race.  Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Ten-term Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) announced this week that he will not challenge Gov. Scott Walker (R) next year.  It is presumed the Governor will seek re-election to a third term.  Rep. Kind had been looked at as a top Democratic challenger, but he will instead remain in the House.  Though Democrats lose a major statewide contender, the 3rd District House seat becomes safer for them.  President Trump carried the district, 49-45%, meaning it would be highly competitive in an open seat situation.


March 8, 2017
Nelson Polling Ahead of Scott in Florida; Crowded Field for Governor of Minnesota 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

The first two Florida Senate polls pitting Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Gov. Rick Scott (R) against each other were released during the week.  The University of Northern Florida conducted the poll (2/16-26; 973 "completed surveys") and it finds Sen. Nelson leading the Governor, 44-38%.  Mr. Scott, ineligible to seek re-election, has mentioned on several occasions that he is considering challenging Sen. Nelson.  The poll is flawed in that the sampling group respondents were categorized as "completed surveys", not disclosing whether the participants are adults, registered voters, or likely voters. 

Professional pollster Mason-Dixon Polling & Research also tested the race, however, and drew a similar conclusion.  The survey (2/24-28; 625 FL registered voters) finds Sen. Nelson ahead by a 46-41% clip.  Should Gov. Scott enter the Senate race, we could well again see a very tight finish in what has become America's quintessential political swing state.

Newly elected Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R) confirms that he will not challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year.  Originally, it appeared that Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) would run for Senate, but such may not now be the case.  At this point in time no Republican has announced his or her candidacy.  Sen. McCaskill is viewed as being one of the more vulnerable Democratic members seeking re-election next year.

House

Democrats and Republicans met in party conventions over the weekend to choose special election nominees to replace Montana at-large Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish), now that the latter is confirmed as Interior Secretary.  As expected, former gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte won on the first ballot at the Republican event, while the Democrats produced a surprise.  Local Montana musician Rob Quist upset ex-US Senate nominee Amanda Curtis, thus giving Democrats a different perspective in the special election. 

The majority of delegates simply believed that Mr. Quist was the more electable candidate, according to post-convention interviews.  Responding to the fact that the last two Montana Representatives have only served one term apiece, Mr. Gianforte told the GOP state committee members that he will seek re-election in 2018 if he wins the special election.  The Republicans are favored to hold the seat on May 25th, but the Quist nomination might make this race a bit more interesting.

A new Trafalgar Group survey (3/2-3; 450+ GA-6 likely special election voters) tested the northern Georgia special congressional election and found no clear leader among the crowded field of candidates.  Democratic investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff and Republican former Secretary of State Karen Handel are within half a percentage point of each other.  No individual reaches 20% preference, but the six tested Republicans combine for almost 45% respondent support.  The two Democrats only touch 21%.  Mr. Ossoff began a major television ad blitz in anticipation of the April 18th jungle primary.

Governor 

Former US Interior Secretary and Senator Ken Salazar (D) confirms he is considering entering the open Colorado Governor's campaign and will decide whether to run in the next several weeks.  Mr. Salazar was elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving as Colorado Attorney General.  He was tabbed by President Obama to join the cabinet in 2009.  He left the Administration at the beginning of Mr. Obama's second term.

Democratic pollster Anzalone Liszt Grove Research tested Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) for the American Heart Association.  In their gubernatorial polling question (2/15-20; 800 IL registered voters), the respondents were asked whether they would back Gov. Rauner for re-election, or an unnamed Democrat.  The latter choice prevailed, 47-32%.  This is not particularly surprising given the state's strong Democratic voting trend, and that politicians tend to perform worse against a placebo party figure than an actual live opponent.

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz (D-Mankato), who just barely survived a 2016 re-election scare with a scant 50.3% victory, is looking at the open gubernatorial race next year.  Already, there is a crowded field of Democrats seeking the position and the group is expected to enlarge.  State Auditor Rebecca Otto, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and state Rep. Erin Murphy are all announced gubernatorial candidates.  Potential contenders include Rep. Walz, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Attorney General Lori Swanson, US Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), and former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.  Incumbent Mark Dayton (D) is ineligible to seek a third term.

Former Ohio US Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Copley) announced that she will enter the state's open Governor's race next year.  Ms. Sutton served three terms in the House before losing to Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) when the two were paired in one district under the 2011 redistricting plan.  The state lost two seats in the 2010 reapportionment.  After her defeat, President Obama appointed her to run the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.  Prior to her being elected to Congress, Ms. Sutton served four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives.  She joins state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni in the Democratic gubernatorial field.


March 1, 2017
Trump Speech, New DNC Chair, and Early 2018 Election Updates 
by Jim Ellis 

National

President Trump made his first Address to Congress, which will subsequently be called the State of the Union Address.  The speech was highlighted by honoring of slain Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and his wife Carryn's emotional tribute to him from the audience. 

Last Saturday, former Obama Administration Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected Democratic National Committee chairman, and then appointed his chief opponent for the position, Rep. Ellison, to the Vice Chairmanship.  Mr. Perez succeeds Acting Chair Donna Brazile, who replaced Wasserman Schultz when the latter was forced to resign in controversy at the Democratic National Convention last July.

Senate

Rumors are consistently continuing that Sen. Bob Corker (R) may eschew running for re-election and instead hop into the 2018 open contest for Governor.  Should that happen, a free-for-all could result for the open Senate seat.  All eyes would be on term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam (R), who would quickly become a prohibitive favorite if he were to enter the race.  If not, expect central Tennessee four-term Rep. Diane Black (R-Gallatin) to make a move, likely for whichever of the statewide offices is open.

A recently released Magellan Strategies Wisconsin Senate poll (2/9-16; 500 WI registered voters) finds Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) holding a 49-35% lead over Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.  The poll tests Sheriff Clarke as a Republican, but he is still a registered Democrat.  Several other Republicans are considering the race, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and venture capitalist and former Senate candidate Eric Hovde who were not tested.  Sheriff Clarke has not yet committed to challenging Ms. Baldwin.  The Wisconsin race figures to rank highly on the Republican national conversion target list.

House

Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park) had been rumored as a potential gubernatorial candidate especially after Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka), who had been considered one of the leading potential statewide candidates, surprisingly announced that she will be retiring from politics to return to the private sector.  Rep. Yoder, this week, told local reporters, however, that his plan is to seek re-election to the House in 2018.

Stewart Mills, a northern Minnesota Republican businessman who has lost two consecutive congressional races to Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth) by margins of 1.4% (2014) and one-half percent (2016), says he is considering running for a third consecutive time and will soon make a decision.  A lot may center on Rep. Nolan's plans.  He confirms that he is considering launching a campaign for the open Governor's position.

Governor

Middletown Mayor Dan Drew (D) this week filed a gubernatorial exploratory committee in anticipation of a 2018 statewide run.  Incumbent Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) could run for a third term, but his approval ratings are dismal.  Mayor Drew says Connecticut's onerous campaign finance requirements are forcing an early entry into the race, though he is not saying that he will challenge the Governor should Mr. Malloy decide to run for re-election.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R), as expected, announced that she will seek the open Governor's position.  Incumbent Gov. John Kasich (R) is ineligible to run for a third term.  Additionally, Democratic US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown) declared that he will not enter the open statewide contest.  In the last several cycles, Rep. Ryan has been mentioned as a potential candidate for Governor, US Senator, and Lt. Governor, but each time backs away from actually entering the statewide campaign.


February 22, 2017
Who Will Challenge Sen. Stabenow? Plus Crowded Fields in Georgia and Alabama. 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Speculation is beginning to swirl about various Republicans considering challenging Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow (D).  Last week, rock star and gun rights activist Ted Nugent indicated that he was thinking of entering the race.  Reps. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) and Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids area) have also been mentioned as potential candidates and neither has ruled out running.

Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) announced that he will not challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) next year, and will likely seek re-election to a fifth term instead.  Several other Republicans are considering the race, including Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and venture capitalist and former Senate candidate Eric Hovde.  Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is also a potential Baldwin challenger, and it is presumed he would enter the Republican primary instead of launching an internal Democratic primary battle.

House

South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) was confirmed as director of the Office of Management & Budget this week, meaning the special election to replace him is already underway.  As mandated by state election law, the special primary will be conducted on May 2nd, with any necessary run-off on May 16th, followed by the special general on June 20th.  Already, seven Republicans have announced for the seat, including state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope and state Rep. Ralph Norman.  No Democrat has yet declared his or her intention to run. 

The last special election to be placed on the calendar is in Montana.  At-large Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) is expected to be confirmed as US Interior Secretary when Congress re-convenes next week.  Once he resigns his congressional position, the parties will meet in convention to choose special election nominees for the state's one House seat. 

2014 Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte, who only lost to Gov. Steve Bullock (D) by a 50-46% margin, claims to have enough votes to win the convention.  His vote count seemingly was confirmed when state Senate President Scott Sales (R) announced that he will not go through with his own congressional candidacy.  Democrats look to be headed toward nominating state Rep. Amanda Curtis, their 2014 nominee for US Senate.  If so, Mr. Gianforte will begin the special election contest as a big favorite.

A new poll in the GA-6 special election to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was just released.  Clout Research, formerly known as Wenzel Strategies, polled 694 voters residing in the northern Atlanta suburban district from February 17-18, and found Democrat Jon Ossoff leading the race with just under 32% support.  Former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) was next with 25%. 

The poll was flawed in the sense that it included Ossoff as the lone Democratic choice.  Actually, there are five who are running, including Ossoff and former state Sen. Ron Slotin.  The poll also listed only five of the eleven Republican candidates. 

The 6th is a Republican district, but Democrats believe they have a chance in this special election because President Trump only carried the seat by 1.5 percentage points.  The party leadership is lining up behind Ossoff, so it remains to be seen just how well he can do.  The jungle primary election is April 18th.  If no candidate secures a majority, the top two finishers advance to a run-off on June 20th.  It is a virtual certainty that the secondary election will be held.

Governor 

An interesting twist may be happening in the upcoming open Alabama Governor's race.  Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville said early in the week that he is considering entering the Republican primary for Governor next year and promises a decision within the next couple of weeks.  With incumbent Gov. Robert Bentley (R) ineligible to seek a third term - and, assuming he is not impeached - the statewide contest will be open for the first time in eight years.

The Alabama race is expected to be crowded, with Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R), state Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R), and US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) all mentioned as serious potential candidates.  Gov. Bentley is under investigation for misusing state funds in connection with an extra-marital.  The legislature is considering impeachment proceedings as a result. 

If Bentley is removed, then Lt. Gov. Ivey would ascend to the Governorship, thus making her an incumbent seeking election in her own right.  The other potential candidates, including Senate President Marsh, certainly don't want to give Ivey a special advantage so much intrigue surrounds this particular election contest.  The latter situation could well influence the legislative leaders to slow-track or ditch the Bentley impeachment proceeding.


February 15, 2017
Trump Approval Numbers and Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, and New Jersey News  
by Jim Ellis

President

Fox News released a national presidential approval poll (2/11-13; 1,103 US registered voters), which produced exactly the same President Trump favorability rating as Rasmussen Reports detected last week.  By a slight margin of 48:47%, the respondents view President Trump's performance in office as favorable.  But, the individual issue numbers suggest the President's standing is much better.

When asked whether they believe the economy will be stronger or weaker next year, a decisive 55% responded "better", versus only 35% who said "worse."  Forty-six percent believe the country will be "safer" next year, versus 43% who say the opposite.  By a margin of 52-45%, respondents rate President Trump as a "strong leader."  And, a scant majority, 50-49%, says they trust the President's judgment in a crisis.  

Answering whether the respondents believe the Trump Administration is "doing things to help your family," 47% agreed while 48% disagreed.  Even this response rate is not particularly bad for a Republican candidate or office holder. 

Senate

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) again received some bad public polling news. According to the Political Marketing Information (PMI) polling firm (2/7; 921 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device), Sen. Flake actually trails former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), 30-23% in an early Republican primary ballot test.  Ms. Ward garnered 40% of the vote in her 2016 GOP challenge to Sen. John McCain.  

The more dangerous potential Republican challenger, however, continues to sit in the wings.  State Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), the top Arizona spokesman for Trump during the campaign, has already announced that he will not seek re-election next year, but has yet to declare for the Senate.  Mr. DeWit was not tested in this poll, but it is likely that his standing would even be higher than Ms. Ward's in comparison to Sen. Flake.

The Arizona Senate primary is certainly becoming a race to watch.  Democrats are stepping up their candidate recruiting here in anticipation of facing a weakened Sen. Flake in the 2018 general election.

House

As reported last week, 4th District Republican Committee delegates in former Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's (R-Wichita) House seat elected state Treasurer Ron Estes as the party nominee for the April 11th special election.  Following suit, the local Democratic convention chose newcomer attorney James Thompson in an upset result.  The favorite had been former state Treasurer Dennis McKinney, but him losing as an incumbent to Estes in 2010 by landslide proportions - 25 points throughout District 4, in fact - gave a majority of Democratic delegates reason for pause.  Clearly most believe they have a better chance fielding a fresh face than they do with an individual who has already lost badly to Mr. Estes.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R), as expected, quickly scheduled the special election to replace Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) now that the latter has been confirmed as Health & Human Services Secretary.  Already 15 candidates have announced their intention to enter the special election.  Democrats, citing President Trump carrying the 6th District by only a point and one-half after comfortably retaining this CD all the way back to when Newt Gingrich represented the region, feel they want to make a stand in this particular special election.

Gov. Deal has called the jungle primary for April 18th, with a special general to follow on June 20th.  All candidates will be on one ballot with the top two finishers advancing to the subsequent run-off.  Should a candidate receive a majority of the vote on 4/18 - something considered highly unlikely - the individual would then be elected outright.

Governor

Maine's Susan Collins (R) is apparently joining a rather long line of US Senators either actively or previously considering entering their state's open Governor's race.  Already, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Tom Udall (D-NM) publicly explored the gubernatorial waters but decided to remain in the Senate.  Sens. Collins, Durbin and Udall are next in-cycle during the 2020 election, while all the other aforementioned office holders will face the voters next year.  

Sen. Collins is now beginning to acknowledge that she is considering running for Governor.  She clearly would be formidable, being first elected to the Senate in 1996 and racking up a 67% victory for a fourth term in 2014.  Simultaneously, term-limited Gov. Paul LePage (R) is publicly considering challenging Independent Sen. Angus King.  The only other Governor looking at a potential Senate race is Florida's Rick Scott (R).

Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind polling sector just released their new New Jersey Governor's poll (1/25-29; 839 NJ registered voters; 410 self-identified Democratic voters; 275 self-identified Republican voters).  The results were inconclusive because the open seat contenders have low name identification.

For the Democrats, former Wall Street executive and ex-US Ambassador Phil Murphy tops the field with just 17% support.  State Sen. Ray Lesniak is second with 7%, while Assemblyman John Wisniewski follows at 6%.  On the Republican side, though the 275-member sample cell is much too low to gauge accurately, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno leads comedian Joe Piscopo, 18-12%.  Gov. Chris Christie (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.  Democrats will be favored to convert this state house.


February 8, 2017
Who will replace Sessions and Virginia Governor's Race Heats Up 
by Jim Ellis

Senate

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) is narrowing the field of prospective US Senate appointments to replace incumbent Jeff Sessions (R).  It appears that Mr. Sessions will be confirmed as Attorney General, possibly as early tonight, meaning he will resign the Senate seat immediately before being sworn into his new position.

The two leading prospects for the interim appointment appear to be Attorney General Luther Strange (R) and ten-term US Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville).  Four others, including two state legislators, are on the Governor's final announced list of six individuals.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he isn't "closing any doors" in relation to possibly seeking the Utah Senate seat in 2018.  Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) stated when running for a seventh term in 2012 that he would not again seek re-election.  His latest comments, however, suggest he is at least considering changing course and may well strive to continue his 40-year Senatorial career.  Former Governor, US Ambassador to China, and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman (R) has also expressed interest in the Senate race.

Mr. Huntsman has said he will not challenge Sen. Hatch, and it is presumed that Mr. Romney would follow a similar course.  Should the Senator decide to retire, this Republican nomination battle would very quickly become a campaign of national interest.

In Virginia, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Glen Allen) announced that he will not challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D) next year, and presumably would seek re-election to a third term in the House.  Mr. Brat was viewed as a sure candidate in a special Senate election, which would have occurred had Sen. Kaine been elected Vice President.  Rep. Brat is apparently not willing to risk his House seat for what would be a long shot attempt in a regular election year.  

House

Fourth District Republican Committee delegates in former Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's (R-Wichita) House district gather tomorrow evening to choose a nominee for the April 11th special election.  Mr. Pompeo was appointed and confirmed as CIA Director, prompting him to leave the House.  Democrats will have their nominating convention on Saturday.  The eventual Republican nominee will be favored to hold the seat. 

Former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Wichita) and state Treasurer Ron Estes are the most prominent candidates among whom the Republican delegates must choose, but Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner and former Trump campaign official Alan Cobb are also credible contenders.

We can expect Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) to quickly call the special election to replace Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell).  It appears the latter man will win confirmation as Health & Human Services Secretary later this week.  Already ten candidates have announced their intention to enter the special election.  Former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) said she will announce her plans when Rep. Price formally resigns.

The California special election continues to move forward in Los Angeles.  Veteran Rep. Xavier Becerra (D) resigned to become California Attorney General, accepting Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) appointment to replace Kamala Harris (D).  The latter resigned the Attorney General's position when she was elected to the US Senate.

This week, state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez won the official state Democratic Party endorsement, meaning he will be afforded party resources in the primary and his name will be annotated as the official Democratic candidate on the ballot.  This is a major boost for Mr. Gomez, as he attempts to forge ahead of 22 other individuals who have already announced their candidacies.  Democrats are a sure bet to hold this seat.  The primary is April 4th followed by a special general election on June 6th.

Governor 

It looks like Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) doesn't have a free shot at his party's gubernatorial nomination.  Though Northam is locking up the key Democratic establishment support, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) could be a legitimate contender.

A Christopher Newport University poll (1/15-28; 1,002 VA registered voters; 464 likely Democratic primary voters; 418 likely Republican primary voters) finds Northam leading Perriello by only a 26-15% split.  Though a statewide official, Mr. Northam has very low name identification (only 23% said they knew enough about him to form an opinion) thus explaining his weak standing.

For the GOP, former Republican National Committee chairman and 2014 US Senate nominee Ed Gillespie breaks 30% primary support (33%), while his two opponents, state Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) and Prince William County Board chairman Corey Stewart, don't even reach 10 percent.

The Virginia Governor's race will be held this year.  Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is ineligible to seek re-election.  The Commonwealth is the only entity that still limits its Governors to one term in office.


February 1, 2017
Flake Dodges One Primary Challenge and California Polling  
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

After flirting last week with mounting a Republican primary challenge to embattled Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake - damaged among GOP base voters for his public and prolonged campaign feud with President Trump - Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Prescott) announced this week that he will seek re-election to a fifth term in the House next year and not run statewide.

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel/north Indianapolis) announced that she will not oppose Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) next year.  On the other hand, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) appears to be moving closer to entering the statewide contest.  Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) confirms that he is considering becoming a Senate candidate.  With Indiana's strong Republican performance in 2016, Sen. Donnelly begins the election cycle rated as one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents.

Retiring NASCAR race driver Carl Edwards (R) is reportedly contemplating entering the Missouri US Senate race to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.  Widely viewed as one of the most competitive of the upcoming 2018 Senate contests, Edwards may well face a Republican primary field of candidates that potentially includes one or more of the following: Reps. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin), Vicky Hartzler (R-Harrisonville/Jefferson City), Sam Graves (R-Tarkio), and state Treasurer Eric Schmitt. 

A new Dan Jones & Associates poll (1/9-16; 605 UT registered voters) finds Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch trailing former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) badly in a hypothetical GOP primary.  The numbers project the former Governor, US Ambassador to China, and presidential candidate to be leading the seven-term Senator 49-35%, among a small number of self-identified Republicans.  Sen. Hatch indicated his 2012 campaign would be his last, but is now reportedly considering running again.  Mr. Huntsman says he will not run against Hatch, but other Republicans might.

House

Two of the upcoming special congressional elections are now scheduled.  California Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) was confirmed as the state's new Attorney General, and he immediately resigned from Congress to accept the position.  Gov. Jerry Brown (D) then called the replacement election for June 6th, with a jungle primary on April 4th.  Eighteen candidates have already announced, including 15 Democrats, two Republicans and one Green.  It is likely that a pair of Democrats will advance to the run-off from the downtown Los Angeles district.

Former Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's (R-Wichita) confirmation as CIA Director resulted in his immediate resignation from the House.  Gov. Sam Brownback (R) set the 4th District special election for April 11th.  Republican and Democratic Party leaders will meet in local convention to choose their nominees, and must complete their process by February 18th.  The eventual Republican nominee will be favored to hold the seat.  Former US Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Wichita) and state Treasurer Ron Estes appear to be the most prominent candidates among whom the Republican delegates must choose.

Remaining in Kansas, US Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) announced that she won't seek re-election to a sixth term in 2018.  Her leaving the House is not a surprise, but stating a desire to return to the private sector does raise eyebrows.  It was commonly believed that she would enter the upcoming open Governor's race.  Her action yields wide-open campaigns for both Governor and her 2nd District House seat.  Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

A new Moore Information poll (1/18-19; 500 MT likely special election voters) conducted for the Greg Gianforte Campaign finds the former Republican gubernatorial nominee opening up a substantial lead against the two most prominent potential Democratic candidates.  Gianforte tops state Rep. Amanda Curtis (D), 47-33%, and Assistant US Attorney Zeno Baucus (D), 45-29%.  Perhaps the Democrats' best candidate, former Montana School Superintendent and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau, declined to run in the special election.

Republicans received good news in South Carolina when state Senator and former gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen (D) announced that he will not enter the special election to replace soon-to-be-confirmed Office of Management & Budget director Mick Mulvaney (US Rep; SC-5; Lancaster/Rock Hill).  Mr. Sheheen, who once held former Gov. Nikki Haley (R) to only a four-point statewide win, says he will remain in the legislature.  Without him as the party standard bearer, the Democrats' chances of scoring a special election upset greatly diminish.

Governor 

A new Public Policy Polling survey (1/17-18; 882 CA registered voters) tested the upcoming open California gubernatorial race in a jungle primary format.  The results found Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) leading the field with 25%, followed by San Diego Mayor Kevin Falconer (R) who has 20% support.  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) and former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (R) followed with 13 and 12%, respectively.  Announced candidates Antonio Villaraigosa (D), a former LA Mayor, and John Chiang (D), the state Treasurer, scored only 9 and 2% voter preference. 

Lt. Gov. Newsom, and Messrs. Villaraigosa and Chiang are the only officially declared candidates.  Mayors Falconer and Garcetti are reported to be considering the race, while Ms. Swearengin has already said that she will not be running for Governor.  Incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is ineligible to seek a third consecutive term.  He was originally Governor from 1975-1983, and then returned to the position in 2011. 


January 25, 2017
South Carolina has a New Governor and Special Elections Start to Form 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

Though national radio talk show host Laura Ingraham resides in Washington, DC, she is now being mentioned as a possible challenger to Virginia Senator and former Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D) in 2018. She would certainly have plenty of time to establish residency in Virginia - her offices are in Arlington, VA, for example - and she is now confirming at least a passing interest in making the jump into elective politics. It is much too early to suggest that she will be a candidate, but it is unlikely the Republicans will give Sen. Kaine a free ride in the next election, whether or not Ingraham decides to run.

It has largely been assumed that the Senate's most elderly member, California's 83-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), would not seek re-election in 2018 but such may not be the case.

According to an interview the Senator conducted this past week with a California radio station, Ms. Feinstein confirmed she is actually leaning toward running again. The veteran Senator says she still believes her work is effective, hence giving her reason to run for an additional term despite being over 90 when her next term would end. The comments, however, could also be made to avoid lame duck status for as long as possible. Therefore, Sen. Feinstein now becomes a person to watch.

House

Two of the upcoming special elections will be scheduled by sometime next week at the latest. California Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) was confirmed as the state's new Attorney General, and he immediately resigned from Congress to accept the position.

Though 18 candidates have already announced their candidacies (15 Democrats, two Republicans, and one Green), Gov. Jerry Brown (D) will now officially schedule the special election to fill the vacancy. Under California election law, the contest must occur between 126 and 140 days after the official call. A likely potential date for the special general is June 6th, which is commensurate with a normal California primary date.

The Golden State special will feature all candidates on one ballot in the first election, which will likely be sometime in April. If no one obtains majority support, almost a certainty in a race featuring such a large field of candidates, the top two finishers, regardless of political party affiliation, will run-off in the June election.

Former Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's (R-Wichita) confirmation as CIA Director resulted in his immediate resignation from the House. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) must call the election within five days, and set the vote between 45 and 60 days from his declaration. Therefore, this special election will conclude quickly, being completed by the end of March. Republican and Democratic Party leaders will meet in local convention to choose their nominees. The voters will then go to the polls only one time. The eventual Republican nominee will be favored to hold the seat.

It appears the Montana Democrats may have lost their strongest candidate in the upcoming special election to replace Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish), once he is confirmed as Interior Secretary. It was expected that former two-term Montana School Superintendent and 2016 congressional nominee Denise Juneau (D) would enter the special election, but she will not. Ms. Juneau just announced that she will forego the opportunity of again becoming a congressional candidate. The two parties will meet in convention to nominate their respective special election contender. Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Gianforte is favored to win the GOP nomination. Democrats will now most likely look toward state Rep. Amanda Curtis, the 2014 US Senate nominee.

Governor 

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) was confirmed as the new United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and she immediately resigned her gubernatorial position. Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) now becomes Governor and will be expected to run for a full term in 2018.


January 18, 2017
Opponents Eye Sen. Kaine's Seat and Open Seats from Trump's Cabinet 
by Jim Ellis 

Senate

West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) confirms that he is considering launching a 2018 Senate challenge to Sen. Joe Manchin (D). Though the state is now solidly Republican, Sen. Manchin remains popular and will be difficult to unseat. Even though the Mountain State performed as Donald Trump's second strongest state in the nation, Democratic businessman Jim Justice held the open Governor's race in the same election, winning a seven-point victory. Attorney General Tim Morrisey (R), who scored his own ten-point re-election win in November, is also a potential US Senate candidate.

Though national radio talk show host Laura Ingraham (R) resides in Washington, DC, she is now being mentioned as a possible challenger to Virginia Senator and former Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D) in 2018. She would certainly have plenty of time to establish residency in Virginia - her offices are in Arlington, VA, for example - and she is now confirming at least a passing interest in making the jump into elective politics. It is much too early to suggest that she will be a candidate, but it is unlikely the Republicans will give Sen. Kaine a free ride in the next election whether or not Ingraham decides to run. Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-McLean) and Dave Brat (R-Glen Allen) are both frequently mentioned as potential candidates.

House

Former Montana gubernatorial Republican nominee Greg Gianforte, a businessman who held Gov. Steve Bullock (D) to a 50-46% re-election victory in November, is reportedly making major progress toward locking up convention delegate support for the upcoming at-large special election.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) is currently going through the confirmation process to become Interior Secretary in the Trump Administration. As soon as the confirmation vote is held, Mr. Zinke will resign his congressional position and Gov. Bullock will schedule a special election within a 100-day period. Both parties will nominate in convention, so the voters will only go to the polls one time. Considering the progress Gianforte is making with the party delegates and leadership, along with earning support from Sen. Steve Daines (R), the defeated gubernatorial nominee appears to have jumped out to an early lead in the shortened process to succeed Secretary-Designate Zinke.

Though Democrats have only a long shot chance of taking the GA-6 special election when incumbent Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) is confirmed as Health & Human Services Secretary, the party leadership appears to be winnowing the field in order to unite behind one candidate. Four Democrats have announced their candidacies, but one is yielding to another candidate. 

Attorney Josh McLaurin is dropping out of the 6th District race in order to unite behind a front-runner candidate. Mr. McLaurin says he believes that individual is investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff, a former staff member to US Reps. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) and Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia). Former state legislators Ron Slotin and Sally Harrell remain in the race, however. The Democrats' hope lies in coalescing behind one candidate in the jungle primary, thereby virtually guaranteeing them a slot in the special general election.

A Remington Research poll in the soon-to-be-called South Carolina special congressional election gives one potential candidate a large lead in the Republican primary, though the individual is ostensibly interested in another race.

State House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (R) has 25% of the 5th District electorate support, according to the RR data (1/7-8; 778 SC-5 likely voters). Following are state Rep. Ralph Norman, the only officially announced candidate, and ex-state Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly, both with 9% backing, while state Rep. Gary Simrill follows with six percent. Mr. Pope has interest in running for Governor, but it is unlikely that Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) will have much Republican opposition once he ascends to the position after incumbent Nikki Haley (R) is confirmed as US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Governor 

Nevada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchinson (R) ruled himself out of the open 2018 Governor's race, opting to instead seek re-election. Earlier, US Sen. Dean Heller (R) also announced that he will run for a second term in the Senate rather than move to the Governor's campaign. This seemingly opens the door for Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), who is beginning to amass a large campaign war chest and is obviously making moves to run statewide, most probably for Governor rather than re-election. Nevada politics runs close, so we can expect a hotly contested race in 2018. Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.

 

A new Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey (1/5-10; 625 VA registered voters) finds former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie jumping out to an early lead over Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), 44-41%. The other tested Republican candidate, Prince William County Board chairman Corey Stewart, trails Northam 45-38%. If ex-Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) became the Democratic nominee, he would trail Gillespie by an even larger margin, 36-45%, while the former Congressman would top Mr. Stewart, 40-38%. The Virginia gubernatorial election will be held in 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe is ineligible to seek a second term.


January 11, 2017
2016 Presidential Election Cycle Closed and Election News from Alabama, Texas, and Virginia  
by Jim Ellis 

President

President-Elect Donald Trump's last political hurdle was successfully traversed in a joint congressional session on January 6th.  The Electoral College vote of 304-227 became official when the 50-state tally was presented to the assembled Senators and Representatives.  House Democrats came forward with several protest motions but the lack of any Senator joining the move effectively killed the long shot maneuver.

The Electoral College rules allow individual electoral votes to be challenged, but at least one House member and one Senator must jointly make the motion.  Though the Democrats had plenty of Representatives joining the chorus, not having a Senator invalidated the motion.  

If advanced, the members from each house would have returned to their respective chambers and debated the protest motion for no more than two hours, at which time a vote over whether to accept the protest would have been taken.  

With that, the 2016 presidential election cycle finally draws to an official close, and Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the nation's 45th President on January 20th.

Senate

Two points of note that occurred during the week may change the Senate political picture.  First, El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) made comments indicating that he is taking steps toward challenging Sen. Ted Cruz (R) next year.  Mr. O'Rourke was first elected to the House in 2012 when he defeated then-Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) in the Democratic primary.  During that campaign, O'Rourke, a former El Paso City Councilman, pledged to serve no more than four terms.  He has now completed two.

Early in the week the Congressman sounded definitive in moving toward a statewide race, but later, not as much.  He made several statements "clarifying" his original comments, now saying that he is merely "considering" running for the Senate.

Though the Lone Star State Democrats performed better in the 2016 presidential race when compared to recent past campaigns, particularly in the cities where Hillary Clinton carried five of the six largest Texas cities, they are still a long way from establishing a winning position.  The Democrats being overwhelmed in the outer suburban and rural regions was key in providing Donald Trump his nine-point statewide victory margin.  Therefore, despite an improvement in his party's standing, Rep. O'Rourke would still have a very uphill battle in attempting to defeat Sen. Cruz.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) at least partially clarified his thought process in regard to selecting a replacement for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) when the latter is confirmed as US Attorney General.  State election law gives the Governor wide latitude in scheduling replacement special elections.  He can, and is now opting to, run the special concurrently with the regular election cycle.  This means that the eventual appointed Senator will serve until the 2018 general election.  If the interim member runs and wins, then he or she will serve the balance of the current term, which is two more years.  At that point - the 2020 election - the new Senator would be eligible to run for a full six-year term.

House

Veteran Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), who heroically served for 29 years in the United States Air Force including enduring seven horrific years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, announced that he will not seek a 14th term in the House next year.  Mr. Johnson will be 88 years of age at the next election.  In addition to his congressional service, he was elected four times to the Texas House of Representatives.  

Rep. Johnson's departure will ignite a major early March (2018) Republican primary and run-off battle for the north Texas district that was last open in a 1991 special election.  A multitude of Republican candidates will likely seek the seat, including state Sen. Van Taylor and Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis.  The Democrats are not competitive in this district.

Governor

In a surprise announcement, former one-term Virginia Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Charlottesville) has joined the 2017 Democratic nomination campaign for Governor.  The party establishment has already lined up behind Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, but Perriello, campaigning from the Democratic Party's left wing faction will maximize his political base in Charlottesville and would have strong potential to do well in vote rich northern Virginia.  Mr. Northam's base is the southeastern Tidewater region.  He also has a strong chance of performing better than Perriello in the state's western coal country.  Though the former Congressman is a relatively late entry into the Governor's campaign, he could become competitive and must be regarded as a significant candidate.

More Texas news features Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick squelching rumors that he is considering challenging Gov. Greg Abbott in next year's Republican primary.  Mr. Patrick instead announced that he will seek re-election to his current position and simultaneously endorsed Gov. Abbott's bid for a second term.


January 4, 2017
2018 Senate Elections Underway and Trump Faces Final Vote  
by Jim Ellis 

President

President-Elect Donald Trump's last political hurdle occurs this week when the electoral votes are officially tabulated in a joint session of the US House and Senate on January 6th.  In terms of state voting, Mr. Trump scored 306 electoral votes compared to Hillary Clinton's 232. 

It is possible for members to object to certain electoral vote ballots.  Such a protest requires at least one member of the House and Senate to jointly come forward.  If a protest is lodged, the two houses would retire to their individual chambers and consider the challenge(s) for no longer than two hours before rendering a vote.  No such challenge has ever been sustained.

There is no reason to think a challenge could be approved, but this election cycle has been contentious to the degree that raising a series of protests is certainly within the realm of possibility.  No reports of such a movement are circulating, but there is still time to erect some final obstacles to a Trump Presidency.

Senate

Several quiet announcements were made during the holiday break period.  Two Senators, both who previously indicated they might forego a run for re-election in lieu of running for Governor of their respective states, have decided not to pursue the chief executive position.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D), who would have been a prohibitive favorite in an open seat run for Governor of Minnesota, told local Minneapolis reporters that she will run for a third federal term in 2018.  She is unlikely to receive a major challenge.

In Nevada, first-term Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who scored only a 46-45% win in the 2012 campaign, was apparently actively testing the waters for an open gubernatorial run.  Reports suggest that Mr. Heller feared a backlash from Republican primary voters because he was less than conciliatory toward Donald Trump during the general election.  Instead, Sen. Heller is now firmly committed to seeking re-election.  The Nevada race could well become the Democrats' top conversion target of the 2018 election cycle. 

At-large Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-Bismarck), the Republican Party leaders' first choice to oppose North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D), says he will decide in the next few months about running for the Senate. Now appearing more unlikely that Sen. Heitkamp will join the Trump cabinet, Rep. Cramer will be forced to decide if he wants to risk a safe House seat in order to oppose the first-term incumbent.  Had there been a special election, Rep. Cramer would have been the leading candidate.

Reports are circulating in Milwaukee that Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) is becoming more serious about challenging Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) next year.  

House

Despite a political rumor beginning to circulate in the Tampa Bay area, former Florida Governor and newly elected US Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) says he will not enter the open Governor's race in 2018.  In fact, he says, steps are already being taken to prepare for his first re-election to the House.

A spokesman for Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flushing/Flint) released a statement saying that the Congressman "appreciates the encouragement he is getting from across the state to run for Governor."  The spokesman further said that Mr. Kildee "will make a decision (in the coming months) about where he can do the most good for Michigan families."  Rep. Kildee is widely expected to enter the open Governor's race.

Governor 

In a wholly unsurprising move, Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos' Vice President and General Manager John Elway announced that he will not seek the Republican nomination for Governor.  Incumbent John Hickenlooper (D) is ineligible to seek a third term, and this race factors to be one of the more competitive open statewide campaigns in the nation next year.  Both parties have many credible options.

The Rhode Island situation continues to heat up.  In addition to attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell (D), grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (D), Cranston Mayor Allan Fung (R), who finished just four+ points behind Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), is openly considering another run.  Former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who finished second in open 2014 Democratic primary, says he will not run in 2018.  


December 21, 2016
Electoral Votes, Special Elections, and Rhode Island Governor News 
by Jim Ellis

President

Despite organized protests and an opposition move by several electors naming themselves after Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Essay #68, Donald Trump received 99.3% of the electoral votes he won in the states.  The Electoral College met in the various state capitols earlier this week, and the announced vote totals awarded Mr. Trump the Presidency.  Only two Republican electors refused to vote for him, both from Texas.  Ironically, Hillary Clinton lost more votes, four, all from the state of Washington.

In the end, the final Electoral Vote count was 304-228 in favor of Mr. Trump.  Retired General Colin Powell received three votes, while Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), ex-Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), and environmental activist Faith Spotted Eagle all recorded one vote apiece.  

The electoral votes, cast by secret ballot, were transported to the National Archivist in Washington where they will be kept until being presented to Congress on January 6th.  The votes will then be officially tabulated and the totals read to the members, thus finally ending the 2016 presidential election.  

Protests from the members of Congress, however, can still be lodged.  An official protest to individual or delegation electoral votes can be made on January 6th.  To officially challenge a vote, at least one member from the House and Senate must jointly come forward to issue the challenge.  The full congressional bodies would then return to their separate chambers for consideration of a period lasting no more than two hours, and vote to either sustain or reject the challenge.  No electoral vote challenge has ever been sustained.  

Considering the tenor of this election, a challenge is not beyond the realm of possibility, especially over the Russian hacking issue.  But, the Republican majorities in both houses would certainly dispense with any such action.  The state officials announced their individual electoral vote totals quoted above after tabulating the secret ballots before transporting to the Archivist.

Senate

With only one major cabinet position still remaining, that of Agriculture Secretary, speculation has cooled around Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) being appointed.  Though reports suggest that President-Elect Trump still wants to select her, strong pressure from her Democratic colleagues may have dissuaded her from accepting the appointment.  Heitkamp leaving the Senate would almost assuredly result in her seat going Republican in a special election, meaning that the Republicans would gain a 53rd Senator.  

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), also under consideration for a Trump cabinet position, announced before the selection of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) as Energy Secretary that he would best serve his Mountain State constituents by remaining in the Senate. 

House 

Another Trump appointment coming from the House of Representatives means yet another congressional special election will be added to what is becoming a second campaign season.  So far, President-Elect Trump has chosen four House members for Administration positions, while California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) tabbed Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) as his pick to succeed Senator-Elect Kamala Harris (D) as the state's Attorney General.

The latest Trump selection, that of South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) as Director of Office of Management and Budget, means that the Palmetto State's 5th District will join KS-4 (Rep. Mike Pompeo; CIA Director-Designate), GA-6 (Rep. Tom Price; Health & Human Services Secretary-Designate), MT-AL (Rep. Ryan Zinke; Interior Secretary-Designate), and CA-34 (Rep. Becerra) as seats that will host special elections upon the current incumbents resigning after being confirmed to their new posts.  

Rep. Becerra has already resigned from the House, meaning that Gov. Brown will soon schedule the replacement election for that particular seat.

Governor

Rhode Island attorney and former gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell (D), grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell (D) who served in Washington for 36 years, says he is not ruling out a 2018 Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Gina Raimondo (D).  Mr. Pell ran in the 2014 open seat contest, receiving 27% of the Democratic vote compared to Ms. Raimondo, then the state's Treasurer, garnering 42%.  Then-Providence Mayor Angel Taveras finished second in that race with 29%.