By Jim Ellis
Jan. 4, 2017 — Embarking upon the new year, which we hope proves happy for all, it is a good time to spend this first week setting the political stage for the coming election cycle. Today, we cover the first 10 states — Alabama through Georgia reporting which members from the various federal delegations may be looking to retire and/or seek a different office.
Alabama: Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R) selection as US Attorney General has thrown the state into political chaos. Five of the six Republican House members report interest in being appointed to the Senate. With Attorney General Luther Strange (R) already declaring that he will run for the seat no matter who is appointed, things may be taking on a different look. Everything will remain murky until Sen. Sessions is confirmed to his new position and Gov. Robert Bentley (R) makes an interim appointment.
The one Republican not looking at the Senate seat is Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile). He is likely to again run for Governor in 2018, when the seat is open. Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is also a potential gubernatorial candidate should she not be appointed senator. Gov. Bentley is ineligible to seek a third term.
Alaska: Independent Gov. Bill Walker is eligible to run for re-election. There is no Senate election here in 2018. Rep. Don Young (R-At-Large) is expected to seek a 24th term though, at age 83, he is a perennial retirement candidate.
Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) stands for his first re-election and could be in for a competitive fight in both the primary and general. He may draw a challenge from outgoing state Treasurer Jeff DeWit in the GOP primary. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Phoenix) name continues to be mentioned as a potential challenger for Sen. Flake or Gov. Doug Ducey (R), but while speculation surrounding her political future will continue for some time, the Congresswoman’s early comments suggests that she will remain in the House.
Arkansas: No major change is expected in the Arkansas delegation. There is no Senate race here in 2018, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is poised to seek re-election. All four House members are expected to seek another term.
California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) will come before the voters and, at 85 years of age in the next election year, she is a strong retirement candidate. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is ineligible to seek re-election. Though there is likelihood that the state’s two top political positions will be open races, it is unlikely we will see much movement from the congressional delegation. Rep. Jeff Denham’s (R-Turlock/Modesto) name, however, is being bandied about in the formulating Lt. Governor open race. Though his House seat is marginal, Mr. Denham’s re-election chances are brighter in the non-presidential years so it is probable that he will remain in his current office.
Colorado: Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) cannot seek a third term, hence Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) are mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates in their respective parties. There is no 2018 Colorado Senate race.
Connecticut: Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who is among the most unpopular of state chief executives, can run for a third term. Should he decide to retire, however, we could see movement among the five members of the all-Democratic congressional delegation. Otherwise, expect all to seek re-election. Sen. Chris Murphy (D) will also be on the ballot in 2018, and begins the election cycle rated as a heavy favorite to win a second term.
Delaware: Speculation surrounds Sen. Tom Carper (D) as a prospective retirement possibility. Should he not seek a fourth term, we could see another round of musical chairs featuring newly elected Gov. John Carney (D) and incoming freshman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-At-Large). If the Senate seat does open, outgoing Gov. Jack Markell (D) could pre-empt any of the other Democrats seeking the Senate seat.
Florida: As usual, we can expect a lot of political action in the Sunshine State. Sen. Bill Nelson (D) already says he will seek a fourth term, and term-limited Gov. Rick Scott (R) is openly considering challenging him. Outgoing Reps. Gwen Graham (D-Tallahassee) and Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) are both potential gubernatorial candidates.
Already, incoming freshman Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Ft. Myers/Cape Coral) is being mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate, while Rep. Tom Rooney’s (R-Okeechobee) name is popping up in the US Senate or open Attorney General discussions. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Ponte Vedra Beach/Daytona) is also cited as a potential AG candidate. Two House members have already drawn opposition for 2018. Outgoing Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Orlando) says he will now challenge Rep. Dan Webster (R-Clermont) in the 11th District that the latter just won. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston) looks to be again drawing a Democratic primary challenge from attorney Tim Canova.
Georgia: Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is term-limited meaning an open governor’s race. Georgia features no US Senate competition in 2018. While a number of former House members are in the mix for governor, none of the sitting representatives are being mentioned. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) will soon be leaving his House seat to become Health & Human Services Secretary meaning a 6th District special election will be coming mid-year. The eventual Republican nominee will be the favorite to succeed Price.