By Jim Ellis
April 13, 2018 — New polls were released recently indicating that three US House races will likely become highly competitive come November. The CA-10 contest featuring Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto) was always slated to be a top-tier challenger race. But it’s apparent that races in Kentucky and Michigan — KY-6 (Rep. Andy Barr-R) and MI-8 (Rep. Mike Bishop-R) — are now emerging onto the contested campaign scene. I’ll review the current status of each of the three races:
Anzalone Liszt Grove Research conducted a poll for California Democratic candidate Michael Eggman (March 13-15; 471 likely CA-10 June 5 jungle primary voters, 400 likely CA-10 general election voters) and found four-term Congressman Denham leading his two-time opponent, 45-41 percent. In the past two general elections, Rep. Denham has defeated Eggman, 52-48 percent (2016) and 56-44 percent (2014).
Though the June qualifying election numbers were not released, the survey supports the underlying contention that Eggman would be a stronger candidate against Rep. Denham than Democratic venture capitalist Josh Harder. While Eggman trails the congressman by four percentage points, Harder lags behind, 48-37 percent.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray (D), who lost the 2016 US Senate race in Kentucky 57-43 percent to incumbent Rand Paul (R), is coming back this year with the hope of unseating three-term Rep. Barr (R-Lexington). This week, the Gray campaign released a poll taken a month earlier that shows him easily defeating retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath in the Democratic primary. The Mellman Group survey (March 3-6; 400 likely KY-6 Democratic primary voters) finds Mayor Gray leading McGrath, 52-19 percent.
It is likely that the Gray campaign released their older data in response to McGrath’s announcement that she had raised $665,000 for the quarter ending March 31, and holds $625,000 cash-on-hand in preparation for the May 22 primary. Mayor Gray represents the consolidated city and county of Lexington-Fayette, all of which is in the 6th Congressional District. Combined, the city and county account for 41 percent of the CD’s total population.
Barr was elected in 2012, unseating then-Rep. Ben Chandler (D), 51-47 percent. The congressman then won consecutive re-elections with 60 and 61 percent of the vote.
Gray is looked upon as a strong Democratic recruit. Party leaders would have preferred that McGrath drop out of the race, but she declined to do so. Irrespective of the Democratic primary result, it appears that this district will host significant political competition in the fall.
Target Insyght, polling for MIRS News (April 3-5; 400 registered MI-8 voters), tested two-term Michigan Rep. Bishop’s (R-Rochester/Lansing) political standing and also how the statewide candidates would fare in this lean Republican district. According to the results, and despite Rep. Bishop only posting a 37:37 percent favorability index, the congressman leads former Assistant Secretary of Defense Elissa Slotkin, who most believe is the leading Democratic candidate, 45-39 percent.
The 8th District contains all of Ingham (Lansing) and Livingston Counties, with about 20 percent of Oakland County. The seat has elected a Republican to the House in every election since 2000. It has also voted for the Republican nominee in the past two presidential elections (Trump, 51-44 percent; Romney, 51-48 percent), after backing then-Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain, 52-46 percent in 2008.
But in this year’s governor’s race, Democratic former state House Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer breaks on top of Attorney General Bill Schuette (R), 43-39 percent within the 8th District confines. Conversely, in a bit of a weak performance for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D), especially when remembering that she once represented this House district and served on the Ingham County Commission, her edge over venture capitalist Sandy Pensler (R) is a rather tepid 48-40 percent.