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Period Ending August 30, 2019

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

President

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Officially failing to qualify for the September 12th presidential debate, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has ended her presidential quest. She joins Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Gov. Jay Inslee (WA), and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) in withdrawing from the presidential campaign. The race effectively has 12 remaining active candidates.

Rep. Seth Moulton: US Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), who failed to qualify for any of the national debates and never made a ripple in the presidential campaign, also withdrew from the presidential race. It is believed that he will now return to seek re-election to his northeastern Massachusetts congressional district. If so, he will likely face three credible Democratic primary challengers including Salem City Councilwoman Lisa Peterson. But, with the Massachusetts congressional primary not until September 15th of next year, Rep. Moulton has plenty of time to recover from his failed presidential effort.

Maine: As the Maine special legislative session was ending this week, the state Senate passed a bill and sent to Gov. Janet Mills (D) a measure that would add the Ranked Choice Voting system to the presidential primary ballot. Maine, like several other states, is moving from a caucus system to a primary and will join 13 other places in voting on Super Tuesday, March 3rd. Ranked Choice Voting is a system that allows voters to rank their candidate choices, and certain individuals will have their multiple votes counted if the first-place finisher only receives a plurality of the vote. The system's purpose is to guarantee that a candidate will exceed 50%.

Two Polls: The new Quinnipiac University poll (8/21-26; 1,422 US registered voters; 648 self-identified Democratic and Democrat-leaning Independent primary voters) and the latest Suffolk University survey (8/20-25; 424 likely US Democratic primary voters) find very similar results, and to former Vice President Joe Biden's benefit. The Q-Poll sees Biden with a 32-19-15-7-5% advantage over Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Suffolk sees the same order, with just slightly different numbers, 32-14-12-6-6%.

HarrisX Poll: During the past few weeks Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) seemed to be locking into a second-place position but the latest polls are reflecting a different result. The HarrisX research firm released their latest survey (8/20-23; 1,343 US registered Democratic voters), which provides more support for a new trend. That is, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) eclipsing Ms. Warren for the second position behind former Vice President Joe Biden. Their latest data finds Biden recording 28% preference followed by Sanders' 17%, and Warren's 12 percent. All others are in single digits.

New Jersey Poll: Change Research conducted one of the few Democratic presidential polls of the New Jersey electorate (8/16-20; 635 NJ likely Democratic primary voters) and finds a tight three-way race for the top spot. Former Vice President Joe Biden places first with 28%, followed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at 23% and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 21%. In fourth position, posting 12%, is South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Home state Sen. Cory Booker could only manage 5% support for his presidential effort. New Jersey has 126 first ballot delegates. The state primary is one of the latest on the schedule, June 2, 2020.

September 12th Debate: The final two polls that help determine debate qualification were released, those from Quinnipiac and Suffolk universities, and the two candidates on the cusp, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and billionaire Tom Steyer, failed to reach 2% support in the required number of surveys. Had they done so on at least one of these last two surveys during the qualifying period, they would have been admitted. But, each could only muster 1% preference.

Therefore, the next debate will feature ten candidates and occurs over just one night, and not two as has been previously the case. The qualifiers are the obvious top tier candidates: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. Joining them are Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), and New York City businessman Andrew Yang.

Senate

Arizona: Skincare company CEO Daniel McCarthy (R) earlier this week announced that he will challenge appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) for the Republican nomination in next year's August 4th Arizona primary. Mr. McCarthy, a Trump campaign activist, is planning to attack McSally from the right. It is presumed he has the ability to self-fund.

Colorado: Clearly part of the enticement package for former Gov. John Hickenlooper to enter the US Senate race was getting national party support despite being in a field with 13 other Democratic candidates. Late last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officially endorsed Mr. Hickenlooper, just two days after he officially entered the Senate race. Obviously, the party leaders are "all-in" with Hickenlooper, and it is likely we will see a highly competitive Hickenlooper-Sen. Cory Gardner (R) general election campaign. The nine Democratic female candidates in the race, however, objected and sent a joint letter to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) asking that the DSCC endorsement be rescinded.

Georgia: Veteran Republican Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) announced on Wednesday that his deteriorating health condition is forcing him to resign his seat at the end of the year. Sen. Isakson said his Parkinson's Disease is progressing, and this and further health complications precludes him from handling his job in an effective manner. His official resignation is scheduled for December 31, 2019.

The development means that Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will appoint a replacement Senator for a year. A special election will be held to fill the balance of the current term, which ends at the beginning of 2023. The special primary will be in a jungle format - that is, where all candidates are placed on the same ballot - for a vote on November 3, 2020, concurrent with the regular general election. If no candidate receives majority support the top two finishers, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to a January 5, 2021 special run-off election.

Massachusetts: Massachusetts Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) for the first time publicly admitted to be considering challenging Sen. Ed Markey in next year's Democratic primary. In a written message, Rep. Kennedy continues to say he has not yet made a decision, but also wrote that, "…I'm not sure this is a moment for waiting. Our system has been letting down a lot of people for a long time, and we can't fix it if we don't challenge it." The Massachusetts primary is not until September 15, 2020, so this campaign has a long cycle.

House

CA-8: Speculation is surfacing that four-term California Rep. Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley) may eschew running for re-election to the House next year in order to seek an open seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. Should the Congressman not seek re-election, the 8th District would be heavily contested in the March 3rd jungle primary. In two of the last four elections, the jungle vote produced two Republicans advancing to the general election. Thus, the 8th is the second-safest seat in the state for the GOP. It stretches along California's eastern border from San Bernardino County all the way through the Death Valley National Park, and even to the El Dorado National Forest on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe.

CA-21: Former Congressman David Valadao (R), who lost his Central Valley California congressional seat to now-freshman Rep. T.J. Cox (D-Fresno) by 862 votes of more than 113,000 ballots cast in a final count that came weeks after the election drew to a close, announced that he will return for a re-match next year. The new California ballot harvesting law was largely responsible for changing the outcome since Valadao had originally been projected as the winner. Ballot harvesting allows individuals to collect ballots from voters and return them to the county authorities in batches. The rural 21st District is typically a Democratic CD, but Mr. Valadao successfully held the office for three terms after serving a two-year stint in the state Assembly. This contest will be a top GOP target next year.

CA-50: Former 49th District Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has formed an exploratory committee to assess his chances in adjacent District 50. The current incumbent, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) is scheduled for trial early next year on campaign finance charges. The race has already attracted five Republican challengers for the jungle primary including a Mayor, former Mayor, city councilman, a retired Navy SEAL and 53rd District candidate, and a radio talk show host who has run for both Mayor of San Diego and the 52nd CD, along with the 2018 Democratic candidate and two Independents. Because the trial has now been postponed to after the December 6th candidate filing deadline, Rep. Hunter may well file for re-election.

IN-5: Former state Rep. Steve Braun, the brother of freshman US Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), lost a 2018 congressional Republican primary in the open 4th District to now-Congressman Jim Baird (R-Greencastle). Now, Mr. Braun has announced that he is returning to campaign in another district as he declared his candidacy for the open 5th District, from which Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) is retiring. Mr. Braun becomes the first name candidate to enter the CD-5 Republican primary. Democrats will likely coalesce behind former state Representative and Lt. Governor nominee Christina Hale.

WI-7: Five-term Wisconsin Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) announced this week that he will be leaving office effective September 23rd. Mr. Duffy, originally elected in 2010 to the seat that former House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey was retiring from after 41 years in the House, is leaving because an expectant child has already been diagnosed with serious health challenges.

Gov. Tony Evers (D) will call a special election for the seat once the resignation takes place. It is likely that the special will coincide with the state's Spring Election, a primary and general vote where judges and local officials are elected. The Spring primary is February 18, with the general election scheduled concurrently with the Wisconsin presidential primary on April 7th. The Duffy resignation means there are now 17 open US House seats.

Governor

Kentucky: A new Garin Hart Yang Research Group internal survey for the Andy Beshear for Governor campaign shows incumbent Matt Bevin (R) falling behind Democratic Attorney General Beshear. According to the poll (8/19-22; 501 KY likely voters) Beshear has jumped out to 48-39% lead over Gov. Bevin for the November 2019 election.

Louisiana: A just-released mid-August Market Research Insight survey (8/13-16; 600 LA likely 2019 jungle primary voters) finds Gov. John Bel Edwards performing well enough in the prelude to the October 12th jungle primary election that he may be re-elected outright. According to the results, Gov. Edwards would score a 52-25-19% victory over US Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto/Monroe) and developer Eddie Rispone (R). For Gov. Edwards, his numbers in the three-way race are better than if he's forced into a run-off. Against Rep. Abraham, his lead would dip to 53-47%. If Mr. Rispone advanced opposite the Governor, the Edwards' margin would be 55-45%.

Mississippi: Lt. Governor Tate Reeves scored a 54-46% victory in Tuesday's Mississippi Republican gubernatorial run-off election, meaning that he will oppose four-term Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November election. The winner will succeed term-limited Gov. Phil Bryant (R) as the state's Governor.

Just after Tuesday's vote, Hillman Analytics released their mid-August general election survey (8/11-15; 600 MS likely 2019 general election voters). The results gave Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood a 43-42% edge over Mr. Reeves. It will be interesting to see how the run-off result will affect subsequent polling. The general election is scheduled for November 3rd.