Mid-Year Senate Primaries

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 24, 2020 — The second in our three-part series about the in-cycle Senate races covers the 13 contests with June and early August primary dates:

JUNE 2

Iowa: Sen. Joni Ernst (R) stands for a second term and will likely face Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) in the general election. Greenfield, who aborted a congressional run in 2018 when her campaign effort didn’t collect the requisite number of legal petition signatures, enjoys at least unofficial backing from the Democratic establishment and party leadership. The leaders’ first choice to run, freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), decided to seek her first re-election instead of jumping into a statewide battle.
Sen. Ernst is favored for re-election but some of her approval ratings have been low. Much will depend upon the national political trend, particularly at the presidential level. Iowa is typically a swing state that has been moving right in most recent elections, though the Democrats did gain two congressional seats in the last election.

Montana: Sen. Steve Daines (R) stands for a second term, and with the Democrats unable to convince outgoing governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock to run for the Senate, most of the political attention has shifted to the open governor’s race and at-large US House contest. With Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) again running for governor, both the governor’s office and the state’s lone House seat are open for the coming election.
In fact, when looking at the entire statewide ticket, mostly due to term limits and statewide officials running for other offices, five of the seven statewide races are open contests in 2020. Therefore, the lack of attention and concentration on the Senate race certainly helps Sen. Daines. At this point, with the March 9 candidate filing deadline less than a month away, the type of candidate who could give the senator a serious run has not yet emerged.

New Jersey: Sen. Cory Booker (D) backed away from the presidential contest in order to concentrate on his re-election campaign. While state law was changed to allow candidates to run for offices simultaneously, Sen. Booker decided the time to exit the presidential race was upon him before embarrassing losses in Democratic primary states encouraged stronger primary competition for his re-election back home. Now concentrating on New Jersey full-time, Sen. Booker looks safe for re-election.

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Early Senate Primaries – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2020 — A total of 35 US Senate races will adorn the various state ballots this year, and the nomination process will begin in five states on Super Tuesday. Voters in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas will make Senate candidate choices on March 3 since their domains have linked the statewide primary concurrently with the presidential primaries. The remaining Super Tuesday statewide primary state, California, does not host a Senate race in this election cycle.

After Super Tuesday, Mississippi and Illinois will hold Senate primaries later in March. Then, a respite comes until May when six more states’ electorates will choose their candidate slates.

MARCH 3

Alabama: The premier March Senate primary comes in Alabama where former US Attorney General and ex-Senator Jeff Sessions attempts to re-claim the seat from which he resigned to accept his federal appointment. In the subsequent special election to replace Sessions, Democrat Doug Jones was able to win the seat and now stands for a full six-year term.
Sessions, however, faces credible Republican opposition and the top two primary finishers heading to an April 14 run-off election appears probable. Sessions looks to be leading the race and is likely either to face former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville or US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile).
Former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore, who lost the special election to Sen. Jones, lags well behind most of the GOP field. Assuming Moore does not rebound to win the nomination, the eventual Republican nominee should become the favorite against Sen. Jones in a state where President Trump will record one of his strongest victory percentages.

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Delegate Reallocation
Brings Increase to 4,750

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2020 — As we approach the first votes being cast for the Democratic presidential nomination next month, the Democratic National Committee has reallocated delegate slots among certain state contingents, thus increasing the size of the overall delegate universe to 4,750.

The changes are relatively substantial within the states when compared to the last national convention in 2016, while the recent Super Delegate total sees an increase of five new votes. The alterations within the state counts — an increase in every affected place but California — feature an additional 210 delegate votes when compared with the totals from four years ago.

Most of the boosts reflect a reward for increased Democratic votes in the 2016 and 2018 elections. The calculations include results in the recent races for president, US Senate, US House, governor, and for state legislature. States that hold their presidential nominating event after April 1 are also rewarded.

The largest increases are found in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey where their respective delegations have grown by 50, 33, and 19 slots respectively, largely due to Democratic gains in the US House and state legislatures particularly from the 2018 elections. New Jersey, for example, converted a governor’s chair to the Democratic column in their 2019 election, after gaining five congressional seats in 2018 and ‘16, thus accounting for their delegation increase. And, all three states vote after April 1.

California’s regular delegate total has been reduced by one vote, possibly for moving their previous June primary to before April 1, on Super Tuesday, March 3. The state still has, by far, the largest contingent with 494 total delegates and 415 of those voting on the first ballot. The next largest delegation, after calculating their increase, is New York with 320 overall delegate slots, 274 of which are eligible to cast first-ballot votes.

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Cheney to Remain in the House

By Jim Ellis

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/ Jackson)

Jan. 21, 2020 — When Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi (R) decided to retire last May, it had been assumed that at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/ Jackson), the daughter of former vice president and at-large Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney, would run for the seat. That is not the case, however. Late last week, Rep. Cheney announced that she will seek re-election later this year instead of entering the open Senate race.

When Cheney first ventured into elective politics she looked to run for the Senate, beginning with a Republican primary challenge to Sen. Enzi in 2014 that would later end before going to the ballot. She was then elected to the House two years later when at-large Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) decided to retire after four terms.

Now with Lummis attempting to return to elective politics with her own Senate campaign, the statewide situation may significantly change. Many were waiting on the sidelines to see what Rep. Cheney would do in order to decide whether to run for the House or the Senate. Now, we may begin to see some serious candidate action, but much time remains for individuals to decide. The Wyoming candidate filing deadline is May 29 for the Aug. 18 primary.

In addition to former Congresswoman Lummis, the only two announced Republican Senate candidates are retiree Patrick Dotson and disabled veteran Josh Wheeler. Though Democrats will be severe underdogs here in the general election, three candidates have announced: college professor Merav Ben-David, actor Chuck Jagoda, and non-profit group executive Yana Ludwig.

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Candidate Filings: Eye on
Mississippi and Kentucky

By Jim Ellis

Look for a rematch between Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), left, and former congressman, Mike Espy (D)

Jan. 17, 2020 — Two more states closed their candidate filing periods as primary slates in both Mississippi and Kentucky have now been determined.

Mississippi voters will cast ballots on March 10 with a run-off election on March 31 if no candidate receives 50 percent support in a partisan primary.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) stands for election to a full term this year after winning the 2018 special election. While it looked like the senator would receive a Republican primary challenge this year, the battle did not materialize, and she is unopposed as the GOP standard bearer. Josh Randle, the former president of the Miss America Organization, had filed an exploratory committee for a senatorial run, but apparently the research done as part of that process did not yield him a reasonable victory path. Therefore, Randle chose to take a pass on the challenge.

This means we will see a re-match between Sen. Hyde-Smith and former US Agriculture secretary and ex-Mississippi congressman, Mike Espy (D). The two battled in the special election, and Hyde-Smith scored a 54-46 percent victory in a race that appeared more competitive than the final result. Espy has two Democratic challengers, but it is doubtful that either can mount a serious offensive against the former federal official and Clinton Administration cabinet member.

All four Mississippi US House members are heavy favorites for re-election. Only Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Saltillo/Tupelo) is unopposed in his primary. Both Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Bolton/Mississippi Delta) and freshman Michael Guest (R-Brandon/ Jackson) have weak primary opponents and each have a safe seat for the general election.

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