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Period Ending April 3, 2020

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

President

ABC News/Washington Post Poll: ABC News and the Washington Post released their latest presidential research data (3/22-25; 1,003 US adults; 845 US registered voters) that projects former Vice President Joe Biden's national lead over President Trump dropping to just two points, 49-47%, while revealing positive elements for each man. While Mr. Biden has a surprisingly substantial lead among those aged 65 and over (57-42%), President Trump's percentages are improving among younger voters (trailing 41-51% between those aged 18-29; 45-51% within the 30-39 group).

Democratic National Committee: The Democratic National Committee officially announced on Thursday that the party's national convention will move from July 13-16 to August 17-20 and will end in Milwaukee just four days before the Republican National Convention commences in Charlotte. The Democrats are moving forward with their traditional convention, rejecting, at least for now, arguments to transform into an online national nominating meeting.

Senate

Georgia: The Atlanta Journal Constitution published another story about appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler's (R) major stock transactions around the time she was participating in closed door Senate meetings about the Coronavirus. According to the article, Ms. Loeffler sold over $18 million in stocks, while purchasing shares in a company that makes COVID-19 protective garments. Additionally, Ms. Loeffler's husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, which will certainly be an issue in the coming campaign.

The latest tracking survey in a four-poll series from the Battleground Connect research organization (3/24; 1,025 GA likely jungle primary voters) finds Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) beginning to establish a strong lead over the bipartisan candidate field though the jungle primary, scheduled concurrently with the November 3rd general election, is still a long way away. The track finds Mr. Collins capturing 34.1% on the ballot test with Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman (D), son of former Connecticut Senator and 2000 Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, in a distant second position with 18.4%. Appointed Sen. Loeffler falls to third position with just 13.6%, just ahead of Rev. Raphael Warnock's (D) 13.3 percent. Former US Attorney Ed Tarver (D) is way back with only 5% support.

Kansas: The economic conservative organization Club for Growth has reportedly reserved $2.1 million in media time for the Kansas Senate race though they have yet to endorse a candidate. They are, however, opposing one. The Club will run an electronic messaging operation against Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) who is running for the open Senate seat from which veteran incumbent Pat Roberts (R) is retiring. The group will attack Rep. Marshall over his spending and certain tax votes, which they say will enlarge the federal deficit even beyond its current bloated status. The Kansas primary is scheduled for August 4th. Rep. Marshall's principal GOP opponents are former Secretary of State and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita). Democrats have coalesced around party-switching state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills).

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Gus Bickford is recommending to the organization's Executive Committee, according to WBUR News in Boston, that the May 30th state convention be cancelled as a COVID-19 virus precaution. The committee's top business item was an endorsement vote in the US Senate Democratic primary between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton).

Mr. Bickford is telling the committee that the two campaigns have reached an agreement where Sen. Markey would be awarded the party endorsement based upon his strength at county conventions, while Rep. Kennedy would be given automatic ballot placement for the Senate race. Under party rules, a candidate must receive 15% of the state convention vote to attain a statewide ballot slot. The Massachusetts primary is scheduled for September 1st.

South Dakota: The South Dakota candidate filing deadline has expired, and surprisingly no one has filed against Sen. Mike Rounds (R) or at-large Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-Mitchell). The two federal officeholders are not yet officially unopposed, however. Due to the Coronavirus, election authorities are extending the filing period for an unspecified number of days. Former State Sen. Dan Ahlers (D) was expected to file for the US Senate seat, while business consultant Whitney Raver (D) was reportedly primed to run for the House.

House

AZ-1: Still a long way from the May 27th Arizona candidate filing deadline, but two-term Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Sedona) has already dodged at least one Democratic primary challenger for the August 4th election. Former state Senator Barbara Maguire has decided to abandon her congressional campaign in favor of attempting to return to the legislature. Ms. Maguire served in both the state House and Senate, but lost re-election races while a member of both chambers.

Remaining in the Democratic primary is former Flagstaff City Councilwoman Eva Putzova, and two minor candidates. Ms. Putzova, however, does not appear to be a particularly formidable candidate, raising just over $122,000 through year's end 2019. At this point, four Republicans have announced for the GOP primary. AZ-1 is an expansive eastern Arizona swing district, but Rep. O'Halleran will begin the official general election campaign as a clear favorite to win what will likely be another close election.

CA-25: The National Republican Congressional Committee this week announced that they have reserved $690,000 in cable television ads to support their special election candidate, retired Iraq War fighter pilot Mike Garcia, in his campaign opposite state Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Newhall) for the right to succeed resigned Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce/Palmdale). It is likely the Democratic committees and their outside allies will outspend the Republicans in this contest, but it is apparent that this politically marginal district is a priority for both parties. The special election will be held on May 12th, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced last week that voting will be conducted through the mail.

NC-11: With North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (R-Skyland/Buncombe County) now officially out of the House in order to assume his new duties as White House Chief of Staff, the next political question to be decided is whether there will be a special election to replace the now former Congressman for the balance of the current term. Gov. Cooper could create a new election calendar for the 11th District special election, which would mean creating a new candidate filing period, holding a stand-alone election on a separate primary date, and determining whether to make the special general concurrent with the regular November 3rd election. Or, he could let the seat remain vacant for the rest of this year.

TX-24: Former Housing & Urban Development Secretary and presidential candidate Julian Castro (D) this week announced his endorsement for school board trustee and Texas runoff congressional candidate Candace Valenzuela in the open DFW area's 24th Congressional District.

Ms. Valenzuela placed second in the March 3rd Democratic primary, trailing retired Air Force Colonel Kim Olson 51-40%. Both advance to the newly scheduled July 14th runoff election for the Democratic nomination because no candidate secured majority support. The Castro move is clearly designed to motivate Hispanics to participate in the runoff election and vote for the Hispanic candidate, which could be definitive in helping to determine the ultimate outcome.

Governor/States

Georgia: A group of legislators have asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to move the May 19th Georgia state primary to the "latest possible date" as a COVID-19 precaution. Mr. Raffensperger responded that he has no such power and that the legislature and Governor would have to act. He pointed out that the Georgia presidential primary was moved from March 24th to May 19th because the state was under an Emergency Order from the Governor. By May 19th, Mr. Raffensperger explained, the Order will have expired.

Hawaii: Last week Hawaii election officials suspended the April 4th stand-alone presidential primary and turned the vote into an all-mail procedure. Now, the date of May 22nd has been established as the deadline for local county election officers to receive all ballots. The regular Hawaii primary is still scheduled for August 8th.

Maryland: Surprisingly, a group of Maryland Democratic state legislators have asked Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to reinstate an in-person option for the state's June 2nd primary. Originally, the vote was scheduled for April 28th. This move is opposite of most requests we see being made in other places, which center around moving to all-mail voting. Gov. Hogan has reportedly not yet responded to the request.

Texas: The Texas Democratic Party leadership has decided to cancel its in-person state convention that was scheduled to occur between the June 4-6 period as part of COVID-19 precautions, and instead will handle the party business virtually. The state convention will move forward as planned, but party officers, dignitaries, delegates, alternate delegates, and guests will be participating online. Logistics are being planned for how the party officials and staff will organize and implement the online convention.

At this point, neither national party is converting to an online option, though Democratic officials, whose convention is scheduled first and will begin on July 13th, are reportedly in the process of discussing such an option. One top official was quoted as saying that since the Olympics, which were slated to start a week later than the DNC, are postponed for a year, that it would be appropriate for the party to adopt the online option. The Republican National Convention is not slated to begin until August 24th.

Utah: With problems acquiring legitimate ballot qualification petition signatures, an uncertain run at the party nominating convention, and recent tightening poll results, former Governor and US Ambassador Jon Huntsman appears to be locked in a tight battle for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, which will be decided in the statewide June 30th primary election.

A new Scott Rasmussen poll for the Deseret News and the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah confirms that the ballot test has significantly narrowed since Rasmussen found Mr. Huntsman leading Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R), 32-20% in early March. Now, the firm's March 23-28 survey of 326 Utah likely Republican primary voters finds Mr. Huntsman barely holding onto a 26-24% lead with the momentum clearly in Mr. Cox's favor. This is consistent with a recent Dan Jones & Associates poll for the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce (reported as “mid-March”; 798 UT registered voters; 338 likely UT Republican primary voters) that projects Mr. Huntsman to have fallen behind Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, 30-27%.

West Virginia: Despite one of the lowest confirmed COVID-19 totals in the country, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced this week that he is moving the May 12th state primary to June 2nd. Previously, Gov. Justice ordered that the format be changed to all-mail.

All-Mail: More Governors and election officials are keeping their primary calendars intact but are changing their voting systems. As a precaution for the Coronavirus, a significant number of states are now implementing procedural changes from in-person voting to casting their ballots by mail. Political leaders in the following entities are the latest to take such action in relation to their upcoming primaries: Massachusetts (May 30 local elections), Minnesota (Aug 11 statewide primary), Nebraska (May 12), New Jersey (June 2), North Dakota (June 9), and Ohio (ballots must be post-marked on or before April 27), in addition to West Virginia (June 2).